Saturday, March 29, 2008

As Good as Guests

Yesterday we considered how we often tend to think about hospitality beginning with those outside our homes rather than starting with our own families. I was really challenged by this and as I began to read on, the authors of Practicing Hospitality have some good suggestions on how we can practice good hospitality with our families.

At this stage in our family life, my kids enjoy having people around to our house for lunch, dinner or just a general get-together on a weekend. However, this is something that I never want to take for granted with my kids. I recognise that there may come a day (and I remember those days when I was young and at home) when this might not be the case. One thing I want to work hard to prevent is any form of resentment, or feelings of "second best" in the lives of my children. This book offers some sound wisdom on this issue and encourages me to treat my family "as good as guests", if not better than.
Often we treat our guests better than our family. Establishing the habit of treating our family as we would a guest will assist us in communicating our love to our family. Extending hospitality to our family allows them to reap the same blessings our guests receive in our home. Also, we are modeling for our children how to honour guests - they learn from our example. Treating our family as guests also reinforces the concept of family first.
Ennis & Tatlock then go on to offer 6 ways in which we can achieve this:
1. Prepare their favourite foods.
2. Set the table.
3. Check your appearance!
4. Create a warm atmosphere
5. Screen your phone calls.
6. Plan special events.
These six things have become second nature for me when it comes to being hospitable with those outside my home. However, I must confess that I am far from making these a priority when it comes to my husband and children. I'm left humbled thinking about the last time I made my husband and son my home cooked lasagna (their favourite), or the last time we went beyond the mere knife & fork and kid plates at dinner time. Or what about taking time to brush my hair and change that top that the baby spat up on before my husband gets home?

I can't even remember the last time I bothered to light a candle when sitting down for a meal - and hey, the kids always think that's fun because they get to blow it out at the end! And how many times am I quick to jump up and answer the phone, and proceed to engage in a conversation with someone other than my family? I must confess, I'm alright at planning special events, yet even at that it's only limited to a birthday, anniversary or some holiday celebration. Wouldn't it be fun to plan a special fun dinner just for no other reason than to see the joy and excitement on the the faces of my kids?

If I love my family more than any other, I must treat them better, if not as good as any other.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Hospitality & Family

I'm reading Practicing Hospitality: The Joy of Serving Others at the moment. It's full of gems and insight. Here's a few words that have challenged me.
While the ministry of hospitality often focuses on those outside our home, it should begin within our home. If this occurs, generosity and kindness extended to others become an extension of our family hospitality...

If the Lord has given us a family, extending hospitality to our family is our first priority.. Hospitality towards others then becomes a natural ouworking or extension of what we are already practicing within our own homes.
Why is this important? The authors, Pat Ennis & Lisa Tatlock explain:
  • For the sake of our integrity. Neglecting to extend hospitality to our family can result in violating our God-given priorities-loving our husbands and children....To model hospitality to the world and neglect to practice it in our own home is hypocrisy, and our integrity is compromised.
  • For the sake of our children. Neglecting to include our children in hospitality opportunities might create resentment in them. If our children feel unloved, abandoned, or ignored while we diligently extend hospitality to friends and strangers, we have opened the door for developing bitterness and animosity toward hospitality in our children...How tragic for our children to loathe hospitality because they have felt a lack of care while we ministered to others.
  • For the sake of the gospel. Neglecting to extend hospitality to our family can discredit our witness....The manner in which we serve and love our family should reflect the transforming power of the gospel in our own life.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Brush up on your Old Testament history

I've recently finished listening to a series of 36 lectures on Old Testament history which are available free for download from the Covenant Theological Seminary website. The are given by Dr. V. Philips Long, former professor at Covenant Theological Seminary and I highly recommend them. I found them very easy to listen to and they really helped me put many of the events of the Old Testament into the correct biblical context. Also, the lectures have a very pastoral style and are full of challenging application. Definitely worth a listen! You could also check out the other material available for download from the seminary.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Parents by God's Providence

I thought I’d give you a little taster of the second book in the Puritan reading challenge, The Mystery of Providence by John Flavel. So far this book has proved a really excellent read and I want to particularly mention a section he includes on God’s providential hand in placing us within our family. I hope that parents and children alike will be challenged and encouraged. I am eternally grateful to God for my parents; the following are 3 reasons from Flavel to give thanks:

1. The blessing of parents who prayed for you before you were born as well as in your infancy when you couldn’t pray for yourself.

2. The blessing of having excrescences of corruption nipped in the bud by their pious and careful discipline.

3. The blessing of parents who carefully instilled the good knowledge of God into your soul in your tender years.
As they longed for us before they had us and rejoiced in us when they had us, so they could not endure to think that when they could have us no more, the devil should. As they thought no pains, care or cost too much for our bodies, to feed them, clothe and heal them; so did they think no prayers, counsels, or tears, too much for our souls, that they might be saved. They knew a parting time would come between them and us, and did strive to make it as easy and comfortable to them as they could, by leaving us in Christ and within the blessed bond of His covenant.
A closing challenge:
And was it not a special favour to us to have parents that went before us as patterns of holiness, and beat the path to heaven for us by their examples? They could say to us: ‘those things ye have heard and seen in me, do’ (Phil. 4. 9); and ‘be ye followers of me, as also I am of Christ’ (1 Cor. 11. 1). The parents’ life is the child’s copy.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Building Your House

This is something I'm working on:
Develop a habit of directing your thoughts about your husband in biblical, God-glorifying directions. Dwell thankfully on his strengths rather than resentfully on his weaknesses. Thank God for the gift he is to you. Start making a written list of things about your husband and your relationship with him for which you are grateful. In so doing, you will build your house.

Love That Lasts by Gary & Betsy Ricucci.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Home Is....

Here are some aspects of "home" found in Scripture, posted by Lydia from The Purple Cellar. The makings of a good book, I think!

God designed home to be . . .

1) A place to flee from trouble (1 Sam. 4:10; 2 Sam. 18:17)
2) A place to be happy (Deut. 22:2)
3) A place for marital joy (Deut. 24:5; Ruth 1:9; 2 Sam. 17:3)
4) A place for hospitality (1 Kings 13:15; Acts 16:15)
5) A place for rest (2 Sam. 4:5)
6) A place of safety (2 Sam. 19:30)
7) A place of peace (1 Kings 22:17; 2 Chron. 18:16)
8) A place to rejoice in the Lord (2 Chron. 7:10)
9) A place to avoid sin (2 Chron. 25:19)
10) The domain of a godly woman (Prov. 7:11)

Home is something God gives to . . .

1) Those who are alone (Ps. 68:6)
2) The barren woman (Ps. 113:9)
3) Birds (and all creatures) (Ps. 84:3; 104:17)

Home is our body . . .

1) The flesh-house of our soul (2 Cor. 5:1-2)
2) A dwelling for the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16)

is built by . . .

1) Wisdom (Prov. 9:1; 14:1; 24:3)
2) Righteousness (Prov. 15:6)

"The homes we have in this life are designed to give us a foretaste of our final, permanent home -heaven." Lydia Brownback

Let's Talk About Dating...

Here's a few thoughts from Boundless:

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Ministry Wives #1

My husband just returned from one of the 9Marks Weekenders at Capitol Hill Baptist. He learnt so much, and since his return, so have I. He brought me a few books back, books that I sense will be invaluable. I've already made good headway with two of them. Here's a quote from Mary Somerville's, One with a Shepherd: The Tears & Triumphs of a Ministry Marriage, something that I, as well as others, need to be mindful of.
Scripture does not give a job description for the wife of a man in ministry. So how do we know what God expects from us? What is our role? Paul gives us some character qualifications that are necessary for a deaconess or wives of deacons. "Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things" (1 Tim. 3:11). As wives of men in ministry, you and I must be sure that we have this kind of exemplary character...our calling is exactly the same as that of every other woman in the church - to be a godly woman, wife, mother, and a faithful member of the body of Christ...

...The role of a wife of a man in ministry is no different than any other exemplary woman in the church... Keep in mind that you are not on a pedestal because of your position as the wife of a man in ministry. You and I are sinners saved by His matchless grace, not having to prove anything in ourselves.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Giving Oneself

John Stott on Ephesians 5, from the The Message of Ephesians: God's New Society (BST Commentary)
The giving of oneself to anybody is a recognition of the worth of the other self. For if I give myself up, it can only be because I value the other person so highly that I want to sacrifice myself for his or her self, in order that he may develop his selfhood, or she hers, more fully. Now to lose oneself that that the other may find his or her self - that is the essence of the gospel of Christ. It is also the essence of the marriage relationship, for as the husband loves his wife and the wife submits to her husband, each is seeking to enable the other to become more fully himself and herself, within the harmonious complementarity of the sexes.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Martin Luther & Marriage

I found this article over at Boundless on Martin Luther and his eventual marriage to Katherine von Bora. If you are single and wondering whether this will ever happen for you, this article is an encouragement - Luther a bachelor until he was 40, Katie a nun and yet they still get married! That aside, what I found more interesting besides their story were the four crucial observations Justin Taylor makes about their marriage.

1. Martin and Katie didn't put their hope in marriage, they put their hope in God.
2. Martin and Katie didn't marry each other because they were infatuated with each other; instead they grew to love each other because they were married.
Martin and Katie viewed marriage as a school for growing in godliness.
Martin and Katie enjoyed the God-given gifts of life and marriage unto the glory of God.

Single or married, these are some things for us to think about and meditate on.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Dating: Be Realistic

Boundless Line have just started a new series, Let's Talk About Dating! Here's a snippet from their first post on being realistic....

First of all, people are people. No one -- including me and you -- is all that great. We all fail and we all have shortcomings. Honestly, I'm never going to find someone who is completely perfect. I do want to be with someone who I work well with and whom I love, but it's important to be realistic when it comes to what I can live with and live without.

Secondly, I think it's important to give people the benefit of the doubt. Most of my girl friends and I are willing to go on at least one date with a guy if he asks (as long as he meets the basic expectations -- loves the Lord, doesn't eat bugs, and so on). We do this because 1) the guy had the guts to actually ask us out, which is awesome. It seems to be rare among lots of guys these days, so we should give them credit when they go for it. 2) You never know what you'll find out when you give someone a chance. He just may surprise you.

Guys, I think you should do the same. Be willing to ask a girl out even if she doesn't meet every expectation you've set up in your mind. Does she want to be more like Jesus? Is she kind? Is she enjoyable to be around? All of these are great reasons to consider getting to know this girl better. It may be scary, but it's worth doing.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Fighting Bossiness

Noel Piper recently posted a great article on the Desiring God blog about fighting bossiness . This is something that I can certainly relate to and maybe you can too. She writes
I feel very comfortable telling people what to do, speaking as if I know what’s best. Others call it bossy. My fight for self-control in this area has two parts—reminding myself who God is and then preaching that to myself.
You can read the rest of her article here.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

No Mere Mortals

We've been recently thinking about sharing our faith in our small groups at church, and I realise how easily any worthwhile activity in this regard gets pushed out of my busy schedule. I recently found this quote from CS Lewis in his book The Weight of Glory which really helped re-focus my thinking:
The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour's glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all plays, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations -- these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit -- immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

How To Ruin A Women's Ministry

Wendy Alsup at Resurgence has just posted on her four top ways to ruin a women's ministry in church. So if you are running a women's ministry, or thinking of starting one, here's some advice on what not to do:

1. Make women's ministry your first priority. I'm not saying to forget your
husband and kids. I'm just saying to think of them as less fulfilling than women's ministry. I had a time in my life when I would drive to church praying intently that the Lord would bless my ministry there, guard my words, and guide my responses. Then one day, the Holy Spirit convicted me that I never prayed the same as I drove toward my house. Women's ministry at church had assumed the place of God's Big Thing in my life. And yet I knew that my ministry to my husband and boys was even more important than my ministry at church. Why was I allowing myself to find fulfillment in one and drudgery in the other?

I think this is Satan's big tool in ministry at every level. I hear about it from church planters and pastors all the time. They get their priorities out of order and sacrifice family on the altar of ministry. I want to be used by God to further His kingdom--but I must always remember that my kingdom influence begins in my home. How can I be a help to my husband in his obligations? How can I minister to my boys? And, from there, how can I minister to those outside of my home in a way that is a blessing and not a burden to my family? Whose needs get sacrificed first? I must be willing to say NO to church things if they interfere with my God-given obligations toward my home.

2. Become territorial. If you are approached by church leadership about restructuring your current pet project, take it personally, resent the leader, and stealthily sow discord among your coworkers in the ministry.

This is SUCH a temptation. I've watched it happen in many ministries over the years. I'm thankful that our elders have done a good job of modeling the exact opposite response. I really got a vision for this as I read Pastor Mark's book, Confessions of a Reformission Rev. It showed me that our pastors are serious about reaching those who need Jesus in our city, and they are willing to step out of their comfort zone to do it. They have all had pet projects that have been sacrificed over the years because they simply weren't the best use of our limited resources. But they take it in stride because they love Jesus and value the mission to reach Seattle above their personal

I've had my fair share of opportunities for bitterness in ministry over the years. All were temptations to me to take it personally, wear hurt feelings on my shoulder, and project disunity about the ministry to others. Instead, I needed to respect God's sovereign right to administer such things as He saw fit. We women can be some of the worst at being territorial and tearing at each other when we feel our territory threatened. But be warned--this is how women's ministries are fractured and destroyed. And women who participate in such sowing of disunity, in my humble opinion, need to step aside from leadership until they get a grip on the importance of humility. You cannot lead without it!

3. Resent your God-given authority structure. Don't seek your elders' input ahead of time for a big decision in ministry and resent their concerns when expressed. And if your husband asks you to pull back from a ministry opportunity because it interferes with family responsibilities, make him feel your disapproval whenever possible.

In reality, our God-given authority and accountability structure is there for all of our good. Each elder, deacon, and lay leader at Mars Hill has an accountability structure in place for their good and God's glory. We all need someone who can tell us when our enthusiasm has run ahead of our good sense. This is hard to take when you have a vision for something big. But if you believe in God's good hand in directing such authority structures, you'll soon see the safety net they provide for each of us in leadership.

4. Ignore life issues or stages of life that you haven't experienced personally. We tend to identify and empathize with people that share similar backgrounds to us and therefore are burdened to equip people in the areas with which we have struggled. But will your ministry only minister to people like you? Are you even aware of the people in your sphere of influence whose background and struggles are different from yours?

My advice is to surround yourself with counselors at different stages of life from you. Our current women's ministry team has singles and marrieds, with and without kids, including a grandmother. Our team also has ladies from different ministry departments. One is involved with community groups and can speak to the issues raised in this ministry. Another is involved with our addiction recovery/redemption groups and raises issues concerning the struggles these members face. Another represents our counseling ministry and speaks to the issues she sees there. We've only just begun using this system but believe it will help us keep a well-rounded perspective of the needs of our women as a whole. There are women crushed under the weight of raising their kids sitting by women crushed because they just miscarried or can't get pregnant. There's the woman struggling because she feels abandoned by the men in her life, while another is trying to figure out how to deal with a husband she despises. There's the 65-year-old childless widow and the 65-year-old grandmother whose husband was just diagnosed with prostate cancer. Are you aware and responsive to the variety of forms women's suffering and struggles take?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Puritans, We Greet Thee In 2008

I signed up to the 2008 Puritan reading challenge mid January for a number of reasons. I've really loved using ‘The Valley of Vision’ Puritan prayer book to aid my devotions for some time now. I was also inspired by Timmy Brister’s reasons for getting aquainted with the Puritans. In brief, the puritans:

1. Had a relentless pursuit of God
2. Were physicians of souls
3. Possessed genuine piety
4. Were pacesetters in church history
5. Will provide a healthy perspective

January’s book for the month was The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes. I’ll admit it was hard going! It was written in 1630 and the old English used is at times extremely challenging. The bruised reed is based around Isaiah 42v1-3, namely v3...
A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. (KJV)
Sibbes explains that a bruised reed is a person in misery. This misery drives a person to see sin as the root of their misery, turning to other things for relief. It is essential for someone to be brought to this place of misery, before they can be saved, to allow the Spirit to work in their heart. Bruising is also necessary for us as Christians in our sanctification.

A smoking flax describes a situation where a fire once blazed high, however for one reason or another it no longer burns with zeal. Sibbes continually directs us to the victory of the cross as the source of encouragement when we are tempted to despair over our lack of faith and sin in our lives;
...there is more mercy in Christ than sin in us.
He practically exhorts us as Christians to continue in our duties rather than allow sin to cause us to make excuses for a lack of service for Him. We are also implored to believe Christ rather than Satan’s lies. The final chapters remind us that despite trials and tribulations, our victory in Christ is certain!

We are weak, but we are his; we are deformed, but yet carry his image upon us.

It is not too late to start the challenge! I hope to review the books as I work my way through them. I may well be reading into 2009 :-) It would be great to hear from you if you're reading too!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

The Centrality of the Home

My husband and I listened to this talk by Voddie Baucham the other day over dinner. Although the talk was delivered to pastors, it more than applies to anyone seeking to honour God in their families. Here are a couple of sobering thoughts (haphasard notes really!) that challenged us.

1. Do we honour Christian mothers and the children they have? How often do we make fun of the woman who comes in with 4 or more children to our church? As Christians are we more influenced by society around us? Are we more concerned with getting the right house, securing the right amount of money before we have children? Do we see children as a comodity, do we have them because it is the done thing to do? Even when (and if) we do start a family, is it a case of "a boy for me, a girl for you and praise the lord we're finally through?" Is it a matter of "only when we have two of the same sex that we might try for a third?"

What does this say about our view of children? Do we see them as a blessing from the Lord? What does it say about what will happen to our Christian population compared with Muslim families who have 5 and 6 children? Our birthrate is below replacement rate, we are not having enough children for our culture to survive. We want more souls in the kingdom as long as we don't have to birth them, raise them and feed them.

2. Do we have a Biblical view of youth ministry? Over the last 30 years we have seen the greatest increase in youth workers, but our youth ministry vision can be unbiblical, working against what we find the Scriptures teaching us. Why? We do not see the centrality of the home for the evangelism and discipleship of children and young people. Any youth ministry statement must include the role of parents and any youth minister must purely exist to assist Christian parents in the evangelisation and discipleship of their children. Parents job, not youth pastors job. We need to teach parents how to teach their children. If there is a deficiency in the church when it comes to giving, we teach the church to give. Why do we not teach Fathers (and mothers) how to teach their children when so many of us are deficient when it comes to raising our children biblically?

3. Adopt a biblical view of church leadership - any church elder or pastor must manage their household well, Titus 1 makes this clear. Do we place too much emphasis on the requirement of leaders not to be drinking and not about how they raise their children in the faith? Not drinking is easy unless you are an alcoholic, yet what are our expectations of the second requirement? Do we raise one command and lower the other? Men are not worthy of being pastors/leaders if they are not raising their children biblically. Pastors need to be exemplary husbands and fathers.

Apologies for the rambled notes, you're better off listening to the talk here!