Thursday, January 24, 2008

When Sinners Say 'I Do'

I'm just about to start reading Dave Harvey's book, When Sinners Say 'I Do': Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage. However, there is a temptation not to bother since Sovereign Grace Ministries have just set up a You Tube page of videos related to some chapters of the book!

Although I'll still read the book ('cause that's just what I do & I paid good money for it not to!), for those of you who might need a little inspiring to flick through the pages of what seems a worthwhile read, check out what Dave Harvey says about his book here.

(HT: Justin Taylor)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Shepherding & Instructing a Child's Heart

If you have never read Tedd Tripp's book Shepherding a Child's Heart, it's a tremendous aid for parenting. What makes Tripp's book different from other parenting books is that he understands that our goal is not to produce obedient children, nor is it to produce happy children. Rather, parenting is about addressing issues of the heart - selfishness, rebelliousness, discontent, etc. Rather than just working on the externals, Tripp advises parents on how to help your child have a Godward orientation.

What's even better is that Tripp is about to release a follow-up book, Instructing a Child's Heart. Here's what he says about it - (HT: Challies)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Heroines of the Mission Field: Mary Moffat

I've recently been reading A Scottish Christian Heritage by Iain H. Murray, and one of the chapters is about the life of Robert Moffat, missionary to South Africa for more than 50 years from 1817 until 1870. I guess he is not the most famous nineteenth century missionary, and in fact, he is perhaps better known as the father in law of David Livingstone. Even less well known is his wife Mary. As I read about the work of the Moffats I was keen to learn more about Mary Moffat and I tracked down a book written in the late 1800's called Heroines of the Mission Field, by Emma Raymond Pitman.

Mary Moffat was born in 1795 near Manchester, England. She and Robert Moffat met when he was working as a gardener for her father, who owned a nursery in Cheshire. They both shared a common desire to undertake mission work and Robert was sent out to South Africa by the London Missionary Society in 1816. Mary was keen to marry Robert and accompany him, but her parents forbade it. Two years later, Mary's parents relented much to Robert's delight, "for a missionary in this country without a wife is like a boat with one oar."

They married as soon as Mary arrived in South Africa and as Murray writes,
Mary's companionship came in time for the many hard years that lay ahead.
The Moffats worked tirelessly to bring the gospel message to the Batlaping people, but
discouragements abounded. Initial threats from the Batlaping people subsided into constant thieving, allied with stony indifference to anything spiritual.
As a woman in this environment, Mary faced particular trials, detailed by Mrs Pittman:
females [who] flocked around her...viewed her as a curiosity, to be teased, robbed or let alone, as it pleased them...The houses were as unlike English ideas of comfort as they were possible to be. These huts... were composed of a number of poles placed in circular form and covered with mats. When the sun shone, it was unbearably hot; when it rained the water poured in, while it was not unusual for dogs and serpents to force their way into some quiet corner.
Mary Moffat herself described the circumstances in which she laboured each day, with her house full of any number of locals, "leaving us not room enough even to turn ourselves". She goes on,
While some were talking, others would be sleeping, and some pilfering whatever they could lay their hands upon.
They worked for a decade without any sign of a change in the people around them and the London Missionary Society was considering abandoning the work. However, in 1829, at last six people were converted. Throughout these difficult years, Mary supported her husband in his work, even when he doubted whether they would ever see any fruit. Mary said,
We may not live to see it, but the awakening will come as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow.

Her faith in the promises of God was further illustrated by her ordering a communion cup and plates from England in 1827, before anyone had been converted. They arrived one week before they were needed in 1829.

She raised seven children, four of whom became missionaries themselves. Robert often had to travel around the surrounding countryside, and Mary was left alone on the mission station, although on some occasions she travelled with him, with all the danger that entailed. At the end of her life, someone said to her, "God has honoured you to be a great helper to your husband", to which Mary replied,
I always studied my husband's comfort, never hindered him in his work, but always did what I could to keep him up to it.

Although our lives today are very different today to that experienced by Mary Moffat, there is much we can learn from her faithfulness in carrying out God's work, and the dedication with which she pursued her helper role.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Questions for a Godly Wife

I came across a helpful set of questions from Daniel Phillips written for Christian women who desire to be godly wives. They deal with everything from your personal relationship with God, to your role as a wife, your desires and goals to the place of others in your marriage. If you're married take some time to go through thinking about these questions. If you're single, don't go, do the same, it's good preparation and learning for what may lie ahead.....

Here's one taster question to get you started and one that I think I'm going to be constantly asking!:
  • "Do you handle disagreements in a respectful, God-honoring way? Do you respect your husband in your heart, in how you think of him (Prov. 4:23; cf. 1 Pet. 3:2, 5, 6 with Gen. 18:12 [i.e. Sarah thought of Abraham as "my lord" in her heart])? Do you imagine that a feigned outward formal respect, thinly veiling a bitter, resentful, belittling heart, is pleasing to God? Or can you dream that such an attitude will bear other than bitter fruit in your marriage (cf. Prov. 4:23; Matt. 15:18-20)? That being the case, do you duly respect your husband and his thinking? Do you approach differences with him cautiously and humbly in your thinking, or brashly and arrogantly? Do you give any prominence in your thinking to the possibility that you might be mistaken? Do you magnify your husband's strengths and godly traits — or do you exaggerate even tiny flaws and affronts (contra 1 Cor. 13:5b)? Do you give him the benefit of a doubt (1 Cor. 13:7), or do you "shoot first and ask questions later," or never? Do you "declare war" easily (contra 1 Cor. 13:5), or seldom or never (Eph. 4:2; Jas. 3:17)?"

Friday, January 18, 2008

New Beginnings

Having enjoyed a 2 week break over the Christmas holidays (one of the perks of being a teacher!) life at my school is well and truly in full swing. I have the immense privilege of leading a Scripture Union Club for 10 and 11 year old children, all of whom are not Christians, and we started back this week. We meet every Monday lunchtime, the gospel is presented to the group and we get to know each other through games and crafts. Throughout the year we’ve looked at a number of Jesus’ miracles as well as related the Bible to different life issues the children face.

At the outset of a New Year, I thought it would be good to look at new beginnings, focusing on Paul and the transformation that took place in his life, when Jesus met him on the road to Damascus. At the end of our time together, the children were really surprised that Paul used to persecute Christians and throw them into prison. Even more so, they were really shocked to hear that many Christians around the world today, face a similar plight.

I am continually amazed at how little knowledge (if any) these children have of Jesus. With this in mind, let’s keep praying for the witness of Christian teachers and children in schools. Let’s ask God to fill them with the power of the Holy Spirit that is promised in Acts 1v8, (Charlotte Chapel’s verse for the year) enabling them to be His witnesses, in an environment that is hugely ignorant of the gospel.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A Women's Seasons

One of the main objections to the complementarian position surrounds the issue of women and teaching. There are many women who believe that they have teaching gifts and are called to teach in God's church. I've come up against so many objections to complementarianism because it simply doesn't allow a women to teach in church. This irritates me no end and to be brutal, it's complete rubbish. One of my convictions is that if every woman who believed they had a teaching gift sought to use it within the boundaries of what Scripture teaches we'd have a far healthier, well rounded church!

So what am I saying? Well, I don't see men jumping up and down, claiming discrimination and feeling that they can't use their teaching gifts when they read Titus 2:3-5. I don't hear them bemoaning the fact that Paul exclusively commands Titus to teach women to teach other women within the church. Sadly, if you asked many women in the church today about these verses they would be unaware of it's direct implication for women. Here is a clear command that women need to grasp and obey. We have a unique opportunity and responsibility to take seriously these words:
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so 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.
I do recognise that this mandate calls for more practical hands on teaching, but not exclusively. In our church over the last year or so we have believed it necessary to offer teaching seminars and small group teaching on issues of biblical womanhood - valuable instruction by women and for women.

I've just finished reading this superb article (HT: Radical Womanhood) by Susan Hunt who is a pastor’s wife, mother and grandmother, and director of Women’s Ministries for the Presbyterian Church in America. Her article, A Women's Seasons goes head to head with women and their preoccupation for rights and roles, laying down the gauntlet of Titus 2:3-5. Here's a snippet:
Let’s revisit Titus 2. This mandate is electrifying! Titus was pastoring a church on Crete in a pluralistic, decadent culture. Of all the things Paul could have told Titus to tell the women to do to combat that decadence, he bore down on the importance of older women encouraging and equipping younger women to live godly lives.

In recent years I have observed a troubling phenomenon. Many women of my generation have relinquished this high calling of nurturing younger women. Every where I go I meet young women who long for spiritual mothers.

My generation has abandoned this calling for many reasons. Some think they have nothing to offer. Some are intimidated by the intelligence and giftedness of the younger women. And some have decided this is the season to indulge themselves. I plead with my peers not to squander this season of your life. You have a perspective on life to share. Your sensibilities have been tempered by time. Your faith has been stretched and strengthened by your life-experiences.

I plead with the church to equip women for this ministry. God is gifting His church with incredible young women. They are a sacred trust; we must be good stewards. Many of them are first-generation Christians. Many are separated from their families because of the mobility of our society. We must teach them the truths of biblical womanhood. We must teach them how to pass on the faith to the next generation. The consequences of our accepting or abandoning this calling will reverberate through several generations.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Respectable Sins

Over the last couple of weeks our family has been hit with a bout of the flu. It's not been pleasant for any of us and we've had to dig deep as we've sought to individually recover as well as look after one another. As the mum in the family most of the looking after has been done by me, mainly because the kids are still at a young age, and my husband has suffered worst of all. So let's say it's an understatement that I've struggled through these days with the physical demands of a sick family climbing the four walls of our house! Yet, I've found myself struggling even more so spiritually - I've lost sight of the Saviour too many times and it's been all too easy for me to become self-absorbed with how I'm feeling and neglect the privileged role I have as a wife and mother, called to love and care for my family.

The bottom line - it's become particularly apparent to me how impatient and irritable I have become! If you were to ask me what sins I struggle with most in my life, impatience and irritability would not be #1. However, they are sins that are all too real in my life and sadly are almost stealth-like catching me and those around me unawares.

Jerry Bridges has recently brought out his book Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins we Tolerate. The book deals with how as Christians, we often become so focussed on the major sins of our society, that we neglect the need to battle with the more subtle sins in our lives. And lo and behold, there sits a chapter on impatience and irritability! Bridges describes impatience as a "strong sense of annoyance at the (usually) unintentional faults and failures of others. This impatience is often expressed verbally in a way that tends to humiliate the person (or persons) who is the object of the impatience." Closely related is irritability where Bridges writes: "While impatience is a strong sense of annoyance or exasperation, irritability...describes the frequency of impatience, or the ease with which a person can become impatient over the slightest provocation."

While reading through the chapter these words have been somewhat painful for me as I've been reminded of the many times in which I am impatient and irritable with my family. So, why am I sharing this? Maybe you are a wife & mother whose husband doesn't hang the bath towels the way you like, or pick up his dirty clothes from the side of the bed as you would. Maybe your children won't sit and eat all their dinner at the table and do it quietly with little mess as you would like. All too often I treat these situations as if it's my family who have the problem and neglect my attitude and heart. Is that you too? If not, which I doubt (!), maybe you can identify with anxiety, frustration, pride, discontentment, unthankfulness, selfishness, lack of self-control, anger, envy to mention a few more "respectable sins" that Bridges deals with. Can I recommend this book to you, it'll be painful, but immensly practical and helpful as you seek to "put to death" sin in your life.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Riding in Tandem

I've got myself involved in a lengthy discussion on another blog about the roles of men and women in the family and church. I hope at some stage to relay my thoughts on one of the questions that I was asked - "practically, what does leading and submitting look like in your marriage? Can you give three examples?" It's been a healthy discussion and no doubt it'll continue for a while!

Amid the discussion and the thought-provoking that has ensued, I remembered these fabulous musings from Noel Piper. 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. I posted this last year (I think) but it is well worth sharing again.

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."

Saturday, January 05, 2008

2008 Bible Reading

Lydia, over at the Purple Cellar has not only given herself a bit of a makeover at her blog but her recent post looks at getting our bible reading in order and off to a good start at the beginning of the year.
Check out the suggestions in the comments section for some new ways to get into your bible, and I'm sure she'd be glad to hear from you if you have some tried and tested method. You can also read our post from last year on this subject, Never in January.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Stirred as a Pot of Paint

One of the Christmas presents I received from my husband this year was Dr Helen Roseveare's Living Faith: Willing to be Stirred as a Pot of Paint. This is one in a series of reprints of her classics for a newer audience. I'm hoping to start reading it soon and offer a review on it, but today I thought I'd give you a heads up on this remarkable woman and leave you with a couple of other resources about her life and ministry.

For those of you who might be unfamiliar with Dr Roseveare, she was an English Christian missionary to the Congo from 1953-1973 where she practised medicine and trained others in medicine. She was taken in 1964 by rebel forces during a time of dangerous political instability where she endured beatings and rape. After her release she returned to England before heading back in 1966 to serve until 1973.

Helen Roseveare was one of the speakers at last years Desiring God "Stand" Conference. She spoke on "A Call for the Perseverance of the Saints" and you can listen or watch online here.

For a taster, here is a Noel Piper giving a short biographical overview of her life.

Also available online:
The Cost of Declaring His Glory audio
Digging Ditches interview with Evangelicals Now.
Maintaining Spirituality
Faithful in Loss - Final chapter in Noel Piper's book, Faithful Women & their Extraordinary God.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

The young people of Charlotte Chapel enjoyed a Hogmanay party, bringing in the New Year with a ceilidh, followed by first-footing throughout the night. We began the festivities however with a service of reflection, looking back on God’s goodness over the past year and looking forward with anticipation to all that God is going to do in the year to come.

As well as some singing and time of prayer, Adam McNinch shared a challenging word with us about change. He began by highlighting some of the world’s most popular New Year’s Resolutions:

1. Lose weight
2. Get fit
3. Stop smoking
4. Stop drinking
5. Save money

However, as important as it is to look after our bodies and be wise with our money, it is much more important to identify areas of a spiritual nature that we need changed in our lives. Laziness, pride and gossip are but a few of the sinful characteristics he listed.

So many of us have failed to keep our resolutions before January is over because we think the changing is all down to us and our efforts! Praise God that He is the one at work within us by His Holy Spirit transforming us into the likeness of Christ. (2Cor 3v18) However this is not an excuse to sit back and expect change to just come about in our lives.

Adam went on to challenge our devotion to change in comparison with our devotion to meeting a deadline at school, university or in the workplace. How often do we stay up working late to finish a pressing piece of work, yet fail to put in time and effort to read the Bible and pray? Was it not Paul who prayed day and night for the Thessalonians? (1 Thess 3v10) How often have we fasted with a friend over a habitual sin, fully committed and earnest that God will bring about change in our lives? All too often, we are those who give up with little effort, writing ourselves off as unchangeable! Instead – let us find accountable partners who we can prayerfully share our desire to change with and regularly encourage and challenge each other.

So as we go into the New Year, let’s get our priorities right! Let us be excited about change and long for God to continue to pour more of his grace into our lives.