31 October 2013

Longing for Jesus

Heavenly Father,
Please help me to long for heaven -
not for the prospect of being in the new creation where there is no more death or mourning or crying or pain,
not for the prospect of being with all the saints who have died in the Lord for all eternity,
nor for the prospect of resting from my labours.
While these are a beautiful part of the glorious prospect of heaven,
please Lord,
help me to long for heaven
so that I might see Jesus.
Please help me, that this would be my chief longing.

30 October 2013

It's not rocket science, but I thought it was interesting

So, we have the ten commandments.  The first four are about loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.  Then the following six are about loving one another.  God first, and then the people.

Notice then, the Lord's prayer.

This, then, is how you should pray:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
Matthew 6:9-13
God first, and then the people.
And then in terms of the people JI Packer (I'm pretty sure at this particular point it is JI Packer speaking and not Carolyn Nystrom) says,
In asking God to meet observed needs, the second half of the Lord's prayer stands as a model.  Here we pray for daily provision ("Give us each day our daily bread" - we need it), for daily pardon ("Forgive our sins" - we need that) and for daily protection ("Deliver us from evil" - we need that too, more than we know.)
And the plurals us and our are key words, which show that we are meant to make this prayer for other Christians besides ourselves.
Quotes from Praying by JI Packer and Carolyn Nystrom pages 155-156

29 October 2013

The blank cheque of prayer

In their book Praying, JI Packer and Carolyn Nystrom quote three passages from John.

And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
John 14:13,14

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.
John 15:16

In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.
John 16:23

Does God really give us a blank cheque? 

What is the message here?  Is Jesus giving his first disciples (and us with them) a blank cheque?  An invitation to write in whatever amount, so to speak, for whatever we want or think we want - and God will make it happen?... The thought from the text is that we should ask God for things that the Lord Jesus will also ask for on our behalf.  We are to make requests to the Father that the Lord Jesus will back.  Jesus will associate himself with us in our requests when our requests match what he wants for us.  That is the meaning of asking hi his name.  Jesus looks forward to his disciples asking for things that can only become a reality with his help and by his power, and that will make for his glory when they do.  That is what it means to ask according to God's will, the will of the Father which the Son knows and does.

From Praying by JI Packer and Carolyn Nystrom p. 154 (The underlining is my emphasis.)

Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to my selfish gain. 
Psalm 119:36

23 October 2013

Doing some reading on prayer at the moment

Good praying is at once both duty and delight, but often we must begin where prayer is primarily duty. As we grow in the knowledge of prayer and in the practice of praying, however, God will sanctify our efforts and delight will come upon us.

From Praying by JI Packer and Carolyn Nystrom, page 10.


22 October 2013

Church History in Plain Language by Bruce L. Shelley

I was speaking to a friend about church history books the other day, having recently finished Church History in Plain Language by Bruce L. Shelley.  She commented that she's never really wanted to read a church history survey because they seem like a litany of bad, sad and sorry situations.  And in a sense she is right.  There is a lot that is grim about church history.  And yet, in every bad and sad situation we find a man or a woman of faith who stands firmly, courageously, faithfully and steadfastly for what is Right.  That is, we see God at work in and through His people.  It is the unfolding of the unstoppable gospel. 

Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.
Acts 5:38, 39

And so the there is a lot that is inspiring in church history.

This particular rendering of church history is a great read.  Shelley is a man who clearly loves God and his writing is very pastoral.  He spends plenty of time explaining the contemporary significance of church history.  This is extraordinarily helpful, making this book so much more than a list of dates, names, places and events.

Being just a single volume, he skips through events reasonably quickly.  The upside is that he doesn't get bogged down, ever.  The downside is that at times, it may be just a little bit sketchy in parts for church history novices.  However his writing is clear.  And in my view he presents the clearest explanation I've read of the last six hundred years, where things do get quite complicated.  I understand the events of these times - and therefore what is happening in our own era of church history - so much better now.  Thank you Dr. Shelley. 

The chapters are short (yay!) and there are good tables, maps and diagrams.  This is a worthwhile read, at so many levels.

Other church history books...
The Story of Christianity by Justo Gonzales
Feminine Threads by Diana Lynn Severance

And here are five good reasons to read a church history book.  Everyone should read at least one in their life time.

20 October 2013

Thankful for those who serve us in unbelievably kind ways

My 8 year old went on
this one.  Crazy.
Every year, at about this time, our suburb plays host to an annual show - like a mini-version of the royal show.  There's a side show alley with dodgem cars, laughing clowns and enough rides to keep small and big kids happy, show bags, log chopping, animals on display, all sorts of exhibits, fast food, fairy floss and fireworks at the end of the day.  And it happens a block away from our house - so parking isn't a problem.  (Although sometimes it can be hard to get OUT of our driveway...)

The show committee outsources various roles - set up, pack up, clean up and lots more besides - to community groups, which is great for the community.  For the last four or five years our church has been fortunate enough to score the cleaning gig.  That is, we get to keep the tables clean and the rubbish under control in the food alley and we clean the toilets right around the showgrounds.  (And yes, to put your mind at rest, we do run separate rosters for the tables and the toilets...)

Fortunate?  Yes.

We love to do these jobs, grotty as they are, because doing this sort of work together is a bonding experience.    More so, it gives us an opportunity to serve the community.  We try to do the work joyfully and properly.  It's a great gospel opportunity. 

And I am personally glad to do this work.  Until this year I have been on the table cleaning roster.  Sometimes I've received a warm comment of appreciation.  Most people just ignore us and get on with their eating and having their fun.  Lots of people leave their dead chips, hamburger mess, soggy serviettes and other rubbish on the tables, even though there are rubbish bins just three steps away.  Once someone saw me cleaning the table next door, swept all of their rubbish from the table onto the ground and said to his buddies, "That's OK...she'll pick it up.  It's her job." 

This year I was on the toilet cleaning roster.  We keep on the go.  Each block of toilets is probably cleaned once every half hour or so...so they don't ever get too bad.  But cleaning high use public toilets is never going to be all that much fun. 

I am glad to do these jobs at the show.  I am glad because I only have to do them for a few hours once a year.  But every year it reminds me that there are wonderful people in our community who do awful jobs like this every single day.  They do grotty work and are ignored at best, more often though treated poorly.  This weekend I have been reminded to be grateful, show gratitude whenever the opportunity arises and live considerately.  There are people in our community who serve us in unbelievably kind ways.

09 October 2013

Why am I a Christian?

Why am I a Christian?

I realised late in my teenage years that I couldn't put my confidence in the things of this world.  People let us down and work, achievements, wealth, experiences, possessions, even our health won't always meet our needs or be 100% reliable and trustworthy.

If I have learned anything from the Bible it's that my greatest need though, far beyond anything else I have mentioned, is to be in right relationship with God and that I can put my complete trust in Him in all of life's circumstances, now and into the future. 

Do you ever feel let down by the things of this world?

Just Start Talking

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
1Peter 3:15

But it is a rare day that someone does actually ask the question, "Can you tell me about the hope you have?"  Even so I've been encouraged recently to think that this doesn't need to be a rare event.  Some of us at church have just done a three week course called Just Start Talking and it's a gem.  It's about how to just start talking - about Jesus.

Just Start Talking is full of reminders and encouragements...
That it is God's work to save people. 
That we just need to be people who are, not people who do - that is, we're not about doing anything special or particular but simply living out our lives as children of God.
That it can be scary to talk about Jesus - but we don't need to have a theological degree under our belts before we do.  We just need to talk about our own experience of living life as one of God's children. 

And there's good equipping...
Ideas on how to introduce our faith into all sorts of conversations.
Ideas on how to encourage conversation rather than kill it.
Ideas on how to build in an opportunity to meet again to continue on the conversation.

Just Start Talking is very much about sharing Jesus within the context of relationships in a way that honours and brings life to those relationships.

One of the exercises across the weeks is to write your own story without any jargon in about 100 words.  The Just Start Talking schema is to say why you are a Christian, give a brief explanation and then finish with a question.  It's not about writing down your whole story and finishing it off with a summary of the key points of the gospel.  That would be a monologue - a very long one in some cases - met with yawning, eye rolling and maybe the end of the friendship. 

You can't say much in 100 words at all.  But that's the point.  It's meant to be the beginning of a conversation.  It's about a minute's worth.  Finishing with a question opens up the conversation.  Or it may be that something you have said - because you can't go into much detail at all in 100 words - triggers a question.  You know, something like, "What did you mean by...?"

There is much to love about this course.  It's fun (Colin Buchanan is one of the presenters on the DVD), it's not at all scary (I did it with a couple of quite timid people who are completely pumped), it can be done in three weeks and it's immensely encouraging.  Just Start Talking is an encouragement to live a life that reflects a relationship with God, to pray for those who don't know Him and to just start talking about the things that are so very important. 

And the thing that encouraged me the most was the idea that if I become known as someone who tries to introduce Jesus into my conversations on a regular basis then at some stage someone probably will  ask the question..."Can you tell me the reason for the hope that you have?"

02 October 2013

Status Report: October

Reading:  the last bits of Isaiah and the Pauline epistles, the 70s Psalms and Proverbs 24 in my Bible reading.  At the beginning of September I was falling badly behind on my reading plan (which may or may not have something to do with Ms Austen...) so I gave September over to double and sometimes triple readings and got myself caught up again.  That included reading Job in fairly large chunks.  I have to say that for the first time in my life I started to get Job.  Maybe it was because I have been thinking a lot about the godly response to suffering in recent years.  Whatever it was, this year instead of enduring this part of the Bible I was completely swept away by Job and his godly response to his suffering at least.  Not sure I have nailed his friends yet.  Maybe next year. 

Also reading: Church History in Plain Language by Bruce L. Shelley.  I was up to "The Age of the Christian Roman Empire" - roughly 300 to 600AD.  But this last week I have zoomed to the last three centuries in order to brush up on the rise and fall and rise and fall and so on of evangelicalism, liberalism and fundamentalism in order to help a friend with Church History assignment.  This is a great book.  No doubt I shall tell you all about it in time to come.

Came upon: Isaiah 57:1 once again a couple of days ago.
"The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart;
devout men are taken away, and no one understands
that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil."
So often we don't understand this.  It is a thought worth pondering awhile.

Weeding: my garden.  It rained and rained and rained and rained some more for most of September.  And I dare not complain (although I have just a tiny bit) because we need the rain.  But it did make for zippo opportunities for gardening because it was either raining or too wet from the rain.  But the sun came out over the last couple of days and so I got to work on this...

The good thing about it getting to this appalling state is that weeds this large are easily pulled out.  Three or four hours work and it was done.  If you look along the back near the fence there are five standard roses.  There between the two roses on the left is a five foot thistle.  Quite impressive really.  It all looks so much better now but I'll post the "after" photo once the roses are out.  That is, provided I keep the weeds down...
Looking forward: to taking our kids to the Royal Show for the first time in their lives later this week.  I haven't been since I was a teenager.  Fun fun fun.
Also looking forward: to a trip to the symphony next week with a dear friend. 
MENDELSSOHN A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Overture
BERLIOZ Les nuits d’été [Summer Nights]
BEETHOVEN Symphony No.6 Pastoral
Very excited.
Stepping down: from a committee I have served on for the last ten years later this month.  I have a few bits and pieces that need finishing up but that will taper off some time into next year.  I don't leave this committee lightly or easily but current life circumstances have made it a necessity.
Thankful: to all who do their Book Depository shopping via this blog.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  Through the commissions I have received I've nearly saved enough to buy the women I read and study the Bible with during the week a Jerry Bridges book for Christmas...but shhhhh...don't tell them...  Keep buying those books.
Enjoying: a bit of conversation with fellow bloggers via email lately.  Nice to chat a bit deeper than comments on a blog post allows.
Signing off: because it is time to head out with the boys and a couple of their friends for today's school holiday adventure.  Have a good day everyone.