Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Reformation Day!

As many of you will know, today is Reformation Day & over at Tim Challies' blog he once again has his reformation symposium up and running. Unfortunately, here at titus2talk we've been a bit behind in coming up with our entry, and to be honest, we're not likely to do any better than making one of the top four spots from last year!

Therefore, for any of you who missed out on reading our entry from last year, I've decided to do the lame thing and repost it - Catriona's post on the wife of Martin Luther is well worth the read - we'll try to do better next year! Happy Reformation Day!

Katie Luther: A Proverbs 21 Woman
Today is Reformation day when the church traditionally commemorates Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg's castle church on October 31st, 1517. This event prompted the Protestant Reformation, through which great swathes of Christendom were turned back to the gospel of grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

Martin Luther married Katharina von Bora in June 1525 and although far less is known of her life in comparison to her husband, she has much to teach us today about how to live as a Christian woman. Katharina or "Katie" as Luther called her, was born in 1499 to a family of poor Saxon nobles. Her mother died when she was just a girl and she was sent by her father to live in a convent at the age of 5. She spent her childhood here and at the age of 16, she took her vows and became a nun.

Even in the convent, Katie heard of Luther and his teachings and she and several others determined to leave their life as nuns. Luther himself heard of their desire to escape and he arranged for a merchant friend of his to transport them out of the convent in his wagon, apparently in empty fish barrels! Luther arranged marriages or employment for all the escapees except Katie, and finally married her himself in 1525.

"She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family." Proverbs 31:15

After their marriage, Katie and Martin moved into a former monastery in Wittenberg and Katie began to bring domestic order to Martin's life. Her skillful management of the various animal holdings, vegetable garden, orchard and brewery allowed her to provide for the family and she rose at 4 am each morning to attend to her duties, earning her the nickname "the morning star of Wittenberg". She and Martin had six children of their own and they also raised four orphan children. She provided hospitality for the numerous students who stayed with them and for the many visitors looking to consult with her husband.

"She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy." Proverbs 31:20

During times of sickness in the region, she allowed a hospital to be set up in their property and tended the patients herself.

She was no stranger to sorrow as two of her daughters died, one aged 8 months and another at 13 years of age. She outlived Luther by six years and after his death, was forced to flee Wittenberg with her family due to the outbreak of war. After returning to Wittenberg in 1547, she was force to leave again in 1552 due to an outbreak of the Plague, and during her journey to Torgau she was involved in an accident which left her badly injured. She died in December 1552, her last words being quoted as "I will stick to Christ as a burr to cloth".

There is no doubt that Katie's devotion to her duties as a wife freed Luther to pursue his teaching and writing, and apparently the Luthers' family life became a model of a godly home for other German families in the succeeding years.

This October 31st, when so many others are celebrating Halloween, let's thank God for the legacy of the Reformation and for the example that Katie Luther is to Christian women nearly 500 years later.

"Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised." Proverbs 31:30

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Blessings, not Burdens

Following on from the thoughts I posted on Thursday, I came across an article (HT: Amy) challenging us again to have a correct view of our children.

While it might not be in the plan of God for all of us to have 6, 7, 8 or 9 kids, it is his will that we ditch the (at times) worldly view that our children are burdens and not blessings. Here's an excerpt from the article by Barbara Curtis, which can be found here.
As our family continued to grow, I continued to hear the same belittling banter about kids I’d heard for years – only now it was on my church steps:

“I don’t know how you do it! My two are enough to drive me crazy!”

“I’ve finally got all the kids in school. I can’t imagine having to deal with another baby!”

“I wanted more but my husband put his foot down.”

“How can you afford it?”

My heart would ache for any children in earshot. My heart would ache for the missed opportunities. And finally, my heart would ache for the misunderstanding of how it all must sound to God – who certainly never got the memo that children were a burden.

As an ex-feminist I knew where this all started, but still I wondered: how could the church have so mindlessly absorbed ideas from the popular culture rather than looking to God, whose truth never changes? In 1997 in an article titled “A Call to Arms,” I wrote:

Still, I wonder what the church would look like today if we were influenced less by the culture which sees children as invaders – who will rob us of our freedom, status, beauty, wealth, and sanity – and influenced more by Scripture, which steadfastly affirms children as God’s reward, as in Psalm 127

Friday, October 26, 2007

Meal Planner Spreadsheet

For those of you who were interested in the meal planner Excel spreadsheet I mentioned, you can now download it here:

MealPlanner.xls

The spreadsheet uses 'macros' (little bits of programming code that do the magic) so you'll have to make sure that your security settings in Excel allow you to run macros. (In Excel 2003, go to 'Options' in the 'Tools' menu, select the 'Security' tab, and click the 'Macros Security' button. We have the security level set to 'Medium', which means that you have to confirm that you want to enable macros whenever you open a spreadsheet that uses them.)

The instructions are included as one of the worksheets on the spreadsheet. If you have any problems, post a comment and we'll try to answer them.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Food for Thought

Barbara and Kent Hughes' Disciplines of a Godly Family has become interesting 'baby feeding time reading' for me. In the introduction, Barbara writes concerning parents, and yes, Christian parents who convey to their children that they have "thwarted their potential." She writes:
Often the telltale sign among Christian parents of a defective parental perspective is an ambivalence about family. Outwardly these parents give lip service to the privilege of parenting, but inwardly they carry the attitude that parenting is a burden to be endured.

How do such attitudes come to dwell in Christian hearts? First, many people are captive to a culture that defines self-worth and fulfillment in terms of contribution, name, education, and money. Society applauds the person who designs a building more than it does the one who attends to the architecture of a child's soul.

Our culture values a face that is known to the public far more than it does a countenance reflected in a child's eyes. The world sets a higher priority on attaining a degree than on educating a life. It values the ability to give things more than it does giving oneself. This approach to self-worth has been relentlessly sown by modern culture and has taken root in many Christian hearts, so that there is no room for another self - even if it is one's own child.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Thoughts on Esther Pt 1

As I mentioned last week I'm currently reading through Iain Duguid's commentary on Esther and Ruth. Today I wanted to share some thoughts from reading Esther 1 and some insights from Duguid's commentary.

In the book of Esther we find God's people living in exile under the rule of the Persian King Ahasuerus (Xerxes). Like Esther, we are, Duguid writes:
Strangers in the land in which we live, called to be in the world but not of it. We may be citizens of the country in which we live, yet we are in a profound sense the subjects of a different king, with loyalties and allegiances different from those of our neighbours.
It is therefore easy for us, as Duguid comments, to relate to the "twin temptations" of assimilation and despair in which Esther and the Jewish people found themselves. However, as Duguid explains further, the book of Esther offers a "twofold answer" to these temptations: (1) Satire and (2) God's providential outworking.

Firstly, the book of Esther is meant to make us laugh:
Satire takes the object of fear, the authority, and makes fun of it, showing its ridiculous side....For oppressed and powerless people, satire is a key weapon, cutting the vaunted splendour of the empire down to size....The one who is able to laugh in the face of the borg will never be successfully assimilated. Satire is thus a powerful antidote to despair.
And here we see this played out as we find in chapter 1 a lengthy description of the impressive and exuberant nature of the empire. Yet, as the King lavishly engages in a week long feast, his wife, Queen Vashti refuses to comply with his demands and brings the empire to its knees. As Duguid comments:
Horrors! What would happen to a man's position in his own home once it became known that Queen Vashti had refused the command of the King?
And so, what do we learn? "We should not take the power and glory of this world too seriously...The empire of this world is a glittering hologram that has no real substance. To defend ourselves against the danger of being assimilated, we must learn to laugh at the empire."

However, in all of this we see secondly God's providential outworking "invisibly and behind the scenes." Duguid writes:
Here there are neither dramatic miracles nor great heroes, just apparently ordinary providence moving flawed and otherwise undistinguished people into exactly the right place at the right time to bring the empire into line and to establish God's purposes for his people.
As the story unfolds, there is no mention of God, Esther or Mordecai but this does not mean that he is not at work. Duguid writes:
Why did Vashti throw away her position and privilege for a noble but predictably futile gesture? Why did Ahasuerus make this foolish demand in the first place? Who came up with the ida of replacing Vashti with a better woman, instead of quietly resolving the offense Ahasuerus had caused? All of these events are...necessary to make way for the process by which Esther will rise to the position where she can use her power and influence to protect God's people against a powerful enemy. Coincidences? By no means. Rather, they are the hand of God at work.
And so Duguid concludes his commentary on this first passage with three lessons;

1. Esther 1 reminds us not to take too seriously the power and glory of this world. The world takes all too seriously the trivial, elevating the antics of the rich and famous, it's call for us to strive for material abundance and the pressure it puts on us to look good and to look 'right'. We must learn to laugh at the world around us, and ourselves when we find "our own hearts getting weighed on the empire's scale of values."

2. Esther 1 shows that we might be required to wait to see what God is doing as he works behind the scenes. God is the "unseen director of history" and we must be ready watching and waiting as his plans unfold. All too often we expect God to work in ways that are extraordinary, dramatic and visible. Be rest assured therefore, the God of the universe wills and acts according to his good purpose and we can trust in that.

3. Esther 1 shows us that God's Kingdom is not like any other empire and this is seen particularly when we compare and contrast the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Ahasuerus. Duguid comments;
There are superficial similarities between the two kingdoms, but in each case they hide deeper differences. The Lord too is a great king whose decrees cannot be challenged or repealed. His sovereignty governs all things, great and small. He must be obeyed, or we will certainly suffer the consequences. Yet his law is beneficial for men and women... God doesn't use the people for his own purposes. Rather, he graciously invites them into a loving relationship with himself. His kingdom grows and does its work not through the outwardly powerful and attractive, but rather in hidden and effective ways.

The Lord too has prepared a sumptuous banquet for his people...But when God summons his bride to his banquet, he does not to expose her to shame but to lavish his grace and mercy upon her.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

"A Fatal Mistake"

If you're filling up the MP3 player for another week's commuting I can recommend that you download the sermon given today by Nicki's husband Colin. He was preaching from chapters 42 and 43 of Jeremiah, expounding story of Jeremiah's journey to Egypt with a remnant of the Israelites after the Babylonian invasion. It challenges us about how easy it can be to live contrary to God's will, even as a Christian and how difficult it can be to repent. You can listen to it here.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Menu planning and kedgeree

We had our regular MuMS group last month after a summer break, and our topic was "The Honour of Working at Home", continuing our study of Feminine Appeal by Carolyn Mahaney. We had a great evening and touched on a lot of topics, but one focus of our discussion was menu planning. Someone made the point that they found planning the family meals a really difficult task and many of us agreed wholeheartedly.

I had to come clean and confess that I am pretty obsessive about menu planning since my husband (who is a bit of a computer whiz amongst other talents) made me an excel spreadsheet for that very purpose some six years ago. It is basically a database with the ingredients for all the recipes I cook so that each week, I tick the ones I want to use and from there I can print out a list of ingredients I need to buy. It originally came into being because I used to spend ages each week copying down things out of recipe books and this speeds things up a lot. It is also useful as a way of storing all the recipes I use (now about 120 of them - I think I need help...). It keeps track of when we had each meal so that I can rotate things and not have the same dish too often.

Anyway, that is my way of doing things and it works well for me, although for those of you who are more laid back about menu planning, it may seem a bit over the top! For any fellow planning freaks I will try to persuade my husband to post the program sometime, and meantime, here's one of my family's favourite recipes, kedgeree. I got this from Annabel Karmel's book of baby and toddler recipes, although I've modified it slightly for my family's tastes.

Ingredients

350g of smoked haddock or cod (dyed or undyed)
142ml tub of double cream
1 onion, chopped
1-2 teaspoons mild curry paste (I use Pataks korma paste)
250g rice
1 teaspoon lemon juice (optional – I use Jiff lemon)
2 eggs
Olive oil

Method

1. Hard boil the eggs and mash with a fork (you can do this in advance).
2. Cook the rice as normal.
3. Cut fish into pieces and take off any obvious bones. Put into a microwavable bowl and pour over the cream. Cover with cling film, pierce some holes in it and cook on full power for 5 minutes.
4. Heat olive oil in a wok and gently fry the onion for 4-5 minutes until soft.
5. Stir in curry paste and cooked rice and cook for 1 minute.
6. Add cooked fish and cream mixture, lemon juice and mashed eggs.
7. Mix together, heat through and serve.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Commentary Recommendation

At the moment for my personal bible study I am reading through the book of Esther. To assist I am using Iain Duguid's Reformed Expository Commentary, Esther & Ruth which Catriona recently gave me for my birthday!

It has really only been in the last few years that I have dipped into the world of commentaries and used them in my devotional reading. Up until then I found myself using only daily reading notes or a study bible. However, I have found investing in a good commentary helps me to read the bible for all it's worth (to coin the phrase from Fee & Stuart's book!). Nonetheless, it is often difficult to know what kind of commentary to buy. I am fortunate, not only to have learned what's good and not so good from my time at Bible college, but I have a preacher for a husband and a Pastor who always highlights good commentaries that he is using in his preaching series. So, here is one such commentary that is biblically and theologically faithful.

Duguid's commentary has challenged many assumptions I had about these two biblical women. Further, I have found that Iain Duguid also provides an excellent exegetical treatment of the text; he is theologically faithful to God's sovereignty in salvation history, focusing on Christ through the lens of redemptive history; and he is intensely practical as he applies God's Word to our contemporary setting.

If that is not enough to whet your appetite, here's an excerpt from the book's preface:
The books of Esther and Ruth are not really stories about their respective "heroines." Rather, thy are part of the Bible's larger story about God and his dealings with his people, and with the world. This is true even though the Book of Esther does not so much as mention the name of God. As in everyday life, God's intervention is everywhere visible in the Book of Esther, even though his presence is concealed. The essential conflict between the two kingdoms - the empire of Ahasuerus and the kingdom of God - plays itself out in the lives of flawed and unexpected individuals, as God delivers his people once again from the threat of extinction.

Meanwhile. in the Book of Ruth, the Great Redeemer shows his love and compassion to the embittered Naomi as well as to her foreign daughter-in-law, Ruth. His grace brings home the disobedient prodigal daughter with empty hands, so that he can astonish her with unexpected fullness. In both stories, the grace of God to the undeserving and the outcasts is prominently on display. Both stories thus constantly point to Christ as the one in whom that grace will fully and finally come to aliens and strangers, redeeming rebellious sinners and making them into God's new people.
Over the weeks ahead I hope to share with you some of what I've been learning and hopefully, applying, from this portion of God's Word. In the meantime, if you are wondering which commentaries might be worth investing in, here are two links to some recommendations.

Desiring God Recommendations
Andreas Kostenberger Recommendations

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The 'Mom' Song

This is hilarious! All that a mum says in 24 hours condensed into 2 minutes 55 seconds!



HT: Solo Femininity

Monday, October 08, 2007

Rachel's Fighting for Joy!

I mentioned on Saturday that we are glad to have Rachel Sprott join us here at the blog. Today I'm posting on her behalf a book review of John Piper's When I Don't Desire God: How to Fight for Joy. Here's what Rachel has to say about it.

I was intrigued by the title of John Piper’s book - ‘When I don’t desire God - How to fight for joy.’ Having enjoyed one of his best known works, ‘Desiring God’, I am compelled to agree with Piper that, ‘God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.’ However, after reading the blurb on the back of this book, I was gripped by the urgent question John asks, "What do you do when you discover the good news that God wants you to be content in him, but then find that you aren’t?"

This deeply challenging book, questions the root of our pursuit of joy. Are we merely pursuing joy and not God himself? Is it joy in God we’re after, or joy in his gifts?

As I read this book, I found myself increasingly aware that fighting for joy is a battle. Fighting for joy may seem a vague and airy fairy concept but Piper puts it so well. He describes it as a fight to see. The world screams at us to prefer its pleasures, to marvel at the media and to desire its delights.

Jesus demands for himself: ‘Prefer my light, like my fellowship, want my wisdom, run to my refuge, be glad in my grace. Above all, delight in me as a person.

Among the many excellent chapters of this book, the role that the Word and Prayer have in our fight for joy, are just two key areas in which Piper provides extremely helpful insights. As I reflected on my reading of this book, there is no doubt that for me, the most challenging point he expresses comes from his Father who passed away earlier this year. I am grateful for his words.

A few days ago I called my eighty-five-year-old father and said, “Daddy, I am writing a book on how to fight for joy. What one thing comes to your mind from sixty years of ministry as to what Christians could do to increase their joy?” Almost without hesitation he said, “Share their faith.”

In my own limited experience, there is nothing quite like the rewarding, joy-filled experience of telling someone about Jesus. John builds on his Father’s words in such a challenging way that he when I read them, they pierced deep into my heart,

Joy in Christ thrives on being shared. That is the essence of Christian joy: It overflows or dies. Millions of Christians live with a low-grade feeling of guilt for not openly commending Christ by their words. They try to persuade themselves that keeping their noses morally clean is a witness to Christ. The problem with this notion is that millions of unbelievers keep their noses morally clean. Christians will-and should-continue to feel bad for not sharing their faith.

Christ is the most glorious person in the world. His salvation is infinitely valuable. Everyone in the world needs it. Horrific consequences await those who do not believe on Jesus. By grace alone we have seen him, believed on him, and now love him. Therefore, not to speak of Christ to unbelievers, and not to care about our city or the unreached peoples of the world is so contradictory to Christ’s worth, people’s plight, and our joy that it sends the quiet message to our souls day after day, this Saviour and this salvation do not mean to you what you say they do. To maintain great joy in Christ in the face of that persistent message is impossible.

May we be those who enjoy Christ so much that talking of Him with those around us, increases our joy and brings Him glory. As we battle to love Him as our greatest treasure, may we be encouraged by this reminder,

Christ is supremely glorious and supremely valuable. Therefore he is worth the fight.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Introducing Rachel....

Today I'd like to introduce to you Rachel, one of the young ladies in our church. Rachel has agreed to join us in some guest blogging over the weeks and months ahead, I look forward to reading her posts as I'm sure you will to.

Rachel is a vibrant, growing young Christian woman whom I have a lot of time and respect for. She has just started off her career as a primary (grade school) teacher and is actively involved in setting up and running a Scripture Union Club in her school.

Rachel is also a part of the committee which runs our youth group within the church. She has also served by teaching the young children in our church as well as involved in mentoring new and young Christians.

We've asked Rachel if she would like to get involved in the blog as she can offer us some different reading being younger ;) single and working in the public sphere. On Monday we're looking forward to reading a book review she has written by one of her (and our) favourite writers, John Piper.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Total Abandon

I've just finished reading Gary Witherall's book, Total Abandon which tells of his wife, Bonnie's martyrdom. Gary and Bonnie were serving as missionaries in Sidon, Lebanon where Bonnie worked as a nurse in a prenatal clinic. She was shot dead early one morning by an extremist.

We were privileged to have Gary with us at church last Sunday evening where he gave testimony and took part in a Q&A session for the students afterwards. The evening was all so challenging and even more so when our sermon series in Luke 'happened' to be on chapter 12, which includes the verse "do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more" (v4). You can listen to that challenging sermon here.