Wednesday, January 31, 2007
This is Love
After looking at God's character while learning the catechism, the next scripture looks at God who is love (1 John 4:8-9). God loves us with an everlasting and eternal love (2 Chron 20:21). It is love that is better than life itself (Psalm 63:3).

He shows this love in so many ways. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8) through whom we can be reconciled to God (Romans 5:10-11). He gave up his only son so that whoever believes in him could be saved (John 3:16). In our earthly lives, God gives us new life through his love and mercy for us (Ephesians 2:4-5). The Holy Spirit has been given to us as an outpouring of love into our hearts (Romans 5:5). As believers kept in the love of God, we wait for that mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ that will bring eternal life (Jude 20-21).

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
1 John 4:10

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Rest for your Soul
Most of us struggle at times with time management, stress, pressure, and the feeling of being totally overwhelmed. Perhaps I looked a little like I was heading in this direction, or it was that just God knew that I might be, when a Christian friend and colleague sent me this article, Death by Ministry from Mark Driscoll's blog at The Resurgence.

The article is aimed as pastors and their wives, discussing burnout in ministry leaders, the signs of burnout and some helpful suggestions to avoid it. It makes for some uncomfortable reading:
  • Fifty percent of pastors' marriages will end in divorce.
  • Eighty percent of pastors and eighty-four percent of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastors.
  • Fifty percent of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
  • Almost forty percent [of pastors] polled said they have had an extra-marital affair since beginning their ministry.
  • Seventy percent [of pastors] said the only time they spend studying the Word is when they are preparing their sermons.
  • Eighty percent of pastors' spouses wish their spouse would choose another profession.
  • The majority of pastor's wives surveyed said that the most destructive event that has occurred in their marriage and family was the day they entered the ministry.
It reminds me of the importance of praying for my pastor and his wife and family and of fulfilling my promise to do that more purposefully for a month. It also reminds me of the pressures they are under and to try not to over-burden them. It has reminded me to offer to look after their daughter for an evening to allow them to have some time together and has inspired me to be brave enough to invite them all round for dinner for a relaxing evening.

I offer Mr Driscoll's advice to you all believing that his suggestions from his own life in how to prevent burnout will be helpful to anyone who has ever felt stressed, burdened and overwhelmed. I have already seen where his solutions might be helpful in my own life.
1. Fill your plate In a conversation with Pastor Wayne Cordeiro of New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii, he gave some very sagely advice. He said that each person's plate is a different size; each person needs to first find the size of their plate and then fill it only with those things that are of highest priority. And, before adding any additional things to our full plate, we must take something else off to leave space for the new duty...

4.Sabbath This includes taking five minutes off every hour to catch your breath, go for a walk, stand up at your desk, etc. It includes taking thirty to sixty minutes off a day to nap, go for a walk, read, garden, or whatever else releases your pressure and helps you to relax. This also means taking one day off a week to Sabbath, including a date night if you are in a serious relationship or married. This also includes a day or two off a month for silence and solitude and a few weeks a year for an actual vacation that does not leave you more tired than before it began.

9.Work from conviction, not guilt Conviction comes from God and guilt comes from people. The key to being both fruitful and healthy is to do what God wants and not always say yes to or let yourself be pushed around by people who are demanding and have perfected the art of making you feel guilty if you do not do what they demand.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me,
for I am gentle and lowly in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.

Matthew 11:29

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Monday, January 29, 2007
4. What is God?
God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.

It is through that Spirit of God that we worship him and through the Spirit that we are drawn towards him(John 4:24).

God is omnipresent and fills the heaven and the earth (Jeremiah 23:24). He has always been present from before the beginning of time (Psalm 90:2). He remains constant and cannot act outwith his own character of love, justice and goodness (James 1:17).

He is above and beyond human intelligence. We can not comprehend the extent of his wisdom and understanding (Psalm 147:5). God demonstrates his wisdom through the use of his power (Job 12:13) and by bestowing his wisdom upon his people (Daniel 2:20-22).

God is omnipotent(Job 42:2). He is El-Shaddai, God Almighty (Genesis 17:1). That power is demonstrated to the whole world through the act of his creation (Romans 1:20). It is through that might that God raised Jesus from the dead and, in the same way, will resurrect us on the Last Day (1 Cor 6:14).

Another name of God is Holy (Isaiah 57:15). In heaven, he is worshipped by creatures praising his holiness and eternal nature (Revelation 4:8). Because God is holy, we are called to be holy and to set ourselves apart for him (1 Peter 1:15-16).

God is a just and fair judge over his people (Deut 32:4). He cannot be anything but righteous (Zephaniah 3:5). He will one day judge the world and each person according to their righteousness (1 Kings 8:32).

"The Lord our God is good, his mercy is forever sure" (Psalm 100:5). Through his goodness, he reaches out to draw sinners to him and guides them along his way (Psalm 25:8). We respond to that goodness by praising him for it (Psalm 106:1).

God cannot lie or change his mind (Titus 1:1-2) and will fulfill the promises has made (Numbers 23:19). When we know this, we can trust him with everything (Psalm 31:5). We can trust him because we know that he has revealed himself and his character through the Bible which is his unerring word.

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Friday, January 26, 2007
Let Marriage be held in Honour
I think most people visiting here would agree that a couple living together before marriage is a bad idea. (If you don't agree, we can chat about about that another day.).

My question for this weekend though is: what do you do when relatives or friends who are living together visit? Do you just give them the spare room? Or could that be seen as a tacit approval of their relationship? What is the loving way to deal with this? What about if they have a child? Surely it is daft (and, at worst, harmful to your relationship with them) to ask them to sleep in separate rooms?

As I ponder this, I can't come up with the best answer, so this is all just thinking out loud. Ideally, they would offer to sleep in separate rooms out of respect for your beliefs. It's not as if I have an adundance of spare rooms either and would need to ask one of them to sleep on the floor in the living room! What is the best thing to do? What have you done in this situation?

I'll give you a few days to give me your words of wisdom and to ponder it a bit more before trying to formulate an answer.

Let marriage be held in honour among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.
Hebrews 13:4

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Thursday, January 25, 2007
Contented wi' Little and Cantie wi' Mair
If you were in Scotland today, you would probably be going to a Burn's Supper tonight. We celebrate the birth of Robert Burns, our national bard, every year on the 25th of January with a big party with good food, speeches, singing and dancing.

You will know many of his poems, even if you don't realise it. You'll have sung one (Auld Lang Syne) just a few weeks ago as you greeted the New Year. Other familiar poems and songs might include To a Mouse from which Of Mice and Men takes its title, My Love is like a Red, Red Rose, and Ae Fond Kiss.

The meal starts with the Selkirk Grace:
Some have meat and cannot eat,
Some can eat that want it:
But we have meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.
The menu will include typically Scottish food, probably starting with some cock-a-leekie soup or Scotch broth. The highlight of the evening though is the haggis as it is marched in by the chef led by a bagpiper. The host for the evening will then give the Address to a Haggis, hopefully adding to the ceremony of the occasion by plunging a small knife or sgian dubh into it as he says:
His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An' cut you up wi' ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like ony ditch;
I'll let you investigate for yourself what haggis is made from, but, be assured, (and this is coming from someone who was vegetarian for 10 years of her life) that haggis is delicious! It is served with neeps (mashed swedes or turnips) and tatties (mashed potatoes). For dessert, cranachan, clootie dumpling or oatcakes and cheese might be served, followed by the national drink, whisky.

The evening continues with speeches - The Immortal Memory remembering Burns' life or work and the Toast to the Lassies and their Reply which are amusing gently poking fun at the other gender. There will be singing of his songs and recitations of his poetry and perhaps some ceilidh dancing, before a final rendition of Auld Lyne Syne. It's a great evening, so if you are ever over here at this time of year, do let me know and I'll make sure that you get to one!

(I also realised while typing this that it is exactly 15 years since our house burnt down - I remember being a little amused that this had happened on Burns' Night! Maybe that is a story for another day!)

Contented wi' little and cantie wi' mair,
Whene'er I forgather wi' Sorrow and Care,
I gie them a skelp, as they're creepin alang,
Wi' a cog o' guid swats and an auld Scottish sang.

Contented wi' Little
Robert Burns, the Bard (January 25, 1759 – July 21, 1796

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007
The LORD is Good!
This week's Scripture for memorisation comes from one of King David's psalms. After he ran from Saul, even lowering himself to the point of pretending to a drooling madman (1 Sam 21:10-15), David writes this psalm extolling God's goodness to him. Years later, in his first letter, Peter takes these words as he encourages the church a deeper, more mature faith (1 Peter 2:1-3).

God is good (Psalm 100:5), as much as he is jealous, merciful, faithful, great, eternal, gracious, mighty, exalted, righteous, holy and love. It is part of his unchanging character. He demonstrates his goodness by his love for sinners as he calls and guides us in his way (Psalm 25:8-10). We should be praying that God will teach us to follow his laws and to do good as he conforms us more into his likeness (Psalm 119:66-70).

On the day God saved him from the hand of Saul, David then sings to the praise of God. He describes the LORD as his rock, fortress, deliverer, refuge, shield, horn of his salvation, stronghold and saviour (2 Samuel 22:2-3). David recognises the security that comes from a relationship with God and trusts in his actions and words (2 Samuel 22:31). With God on our side, of what do we have to be afraid (Psalm 27:1)? His refuge extends to our salvation with deliverance promised to those who have taken refuge in him (Psalm 34:22) but there are warnings for those who seek refuge in wordly things (Psalm 57:2).

The knowledge of God's goodness, steadfast love, refuge, protection and salvation should draw us to praise and exalt him along with the psalmists (Psalm 5:11, Psalm 106:1).

Oh, taste and see the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Psalm 34:8

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Beauty of Mary and Martha: The Good Portion
This week's Carnival of Beauty visits A Dusty Frame where we gather to discuss the Beauty of Mary and Martha.

I am such a Martha. I can see myself in her the time she invited Jesus into her home. There she is, flapping around "distracted with much serving" and "anxious and troubled about many things", forgetting (choosing to forget?) that the real need in my life is to listen to the teachings of Jesus.

Things must have changed for Martha in her faith and relationship with Jesus when she goes on to confess her faith in him as the Lord and Messiah. In her distress at the death of her brother, Lazarus, Mary and Marth both flap a little, blaming Jesus for not having come sooner. Martha, on hearing that Jesus is coming, goes to meet him while Mary stays at home. When they meet, she declares, "I believe you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world."

As I read through Martha's story this week, I was reminded of how much I am like her, but also that Jesus loved her. I want things to be perfect before going to Jesus, I want to have things sorted, I don't want to bother him with trivialities. Instead I should follow Mary's example and sit at my Lord's feet, listening to his teaching and casting my burdens on him because he loves me.

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:41-42

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Monday, January 22, 2007
Keep your Soul Diligently
I've told you before about my Bible study group for young women. It is intended for older students and young graduates to provide support and fellowship over what can be a very challenging transition. We now have a core group of 10 young women who meet regularly to discuss faith and doctrine over huge quantities of tea and scones. (We are clearly a British bible study group!)

Originally we studied Biblical Womanhood, looking at being made in God's image, the Fall, marriage, singleness, beauty and modesty, the church, relationships with our brothers and sisters, and our relationship with God. We learned so much together, discussing the challenges in going against prevailing culture. At the same time, we have faced many difficult issues including purity, domestic violence, abuse, and remarriage after divorce. It has been hard to look at these issues but, through lengthy Bible study, discussion and prayer, we have been able to work through them and so tried to find practical Biblical answers.

For our next study, we decided we would study a book of the Bible rather than a theme, so we are now studying Zechariah. It's an unusual choice, but it has been so encouraging to study God's word to those struggling Israelites.

So far, we have seen that we need, like the Israelites, to return to God as individuals, as churches and as a society. God's work of salvation is finished - our sin has been sent away, the sacrifice is complete, we are forgiven and righteous in his sight, and he has the victory. To us as his people, he has promised his presence and blessing and promised to rebuild his church to be his final dwelling place and home of his glory. We must live in light of eternity, knowing that, along with our promised salvation, there is a promise of judgement on those who have rejected God. Now, until Judgement Day comes or we are called home, we are to share this good news with the whole earth. In our next study, we are looking at what it means to follow a religion and to have a living faith.

(Can I also take a moment to recommend the Good Book Company (or Matthias Media for my Australian friends), an evangelical Christian publisher, for good solid Bible study resources? Their studies and daily devotionals have minimal digressions into the 'nice stories' that plague many other Bible study books and are firmly based in Scripture with strong evangelical teaching.)

Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children's children.
Deuteronomy 4:9

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Saturday, January 20, 2007
3. What do the Scriptures principally teach?
The Scriptures principally teach, what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.

God has given us the Scriptures so we can love God so that we serve him and know his commandments so we can follow them and walk in his ways (Deut 10:12-13). Love and obedience are inextricably linked (John 14:23-24).

It is only through the Scriptures that we can come to know Christ as the Son of God (John 20:31), have our sins forgiven (Acts 10:43) and so receive eternal life (1 John 5:13).

He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8

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Friday, January 19, 2007
The Basic Principles of the Oracles of God
It is worthwhile to be a Shorter Catechism boy. They grow up to be men. And better than that, they are exceedingly apt to grow to be men of God.
B B Warfield, American theologian (1851-1921)
As you know, I have made it one of my goals for 2007 to learn the first 52 questions of the Shorter Catechism. (I was amused and surprised to see that the Shorter Catechism was originally intended for those of "of weaker capacity" rather than the Longer Catechism.) Learning the catechism and teaching it in Sunday school has fallen out of favour, so why start to learn it now?
I am persuaded that the use of a good Catechism in all our families will be a great safeguard against the increasing errors of the times...Those who use it in their families or classes must labour to explain the sense; but the words should be carefully learned by heart, for they will be understood better as years pass.
Charles Hadden Spurgeon, English Baptist preacher (1834-1892)
Learning the catechism has been used to teach the basic tenets of the Christian faith since the first century. As my denomination adheres to the Westminster Standards, I decided to use the Shorter Catechism which goes through the main doctrines of Faith, the Ten Commandments, the Sacraments and Prayer.

Many older friends, even those who are not Christians, who were catechised as children say that the teaching is hidden away in their hearts and minds and find back to them at times of difficulty or trial. It is perhaps not completely disconnected that Bible knowledge, even in Christians, has fallen in the last twenty years as popularity of the catechism has decreased despite a proliferation of Bible study material in all sorts of media.
Therefore it is the duty of every father of a family to question and examine his children and servants at least once a week and to ascertain what they know of it, or are learning and, if they do not know it, to keep them faithfully at it. However, it is not enough for them to comprehend and recite these parts according to the words only, but the young people should also be made to attend the preaching, especially during the time which is devoted to the Catechism, that they may hear it explained and may learn to understand what every part contains, so as to be able to recite it as they have heard it, and, when asked, may give a correct answer, so that the preaching may not be without profit and fruit.
Martin Luther, German theologian (1483-1546)
Should we be catechising our children at home and in Sunday school? I think we should to allow these children to learn Christian truths and to form a good theological foundation at an early age. Perhaps it is similar to the bank tellers or medical students only being let loose on normal bank-notes, hearts and lungs I wrote of a few days ago. If we teach our children Biblical Christian doctrine, they might be less likely swayed by false teaching or be led astray in the future.
The older I grow, and I now stand on the brink of eternity—the more comes back to me the first sentence in the Catechism which I learned when a child, and the fuller and deeper its meaning becomes: ‘What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.’
Thomas Carlyle, Scottish satirist and historian (1795-1881)
As I learn the Catechism, I want to strengthen my knowledge of basic Christian doctrine, some of which I know but wish to more fully understand and some of which I accept but want to be able to defend from Scripture. I want to hide these teachings and this wisdom in my heart, so that I might strengthen my knowledge of and relationship with him and ultimately "glorify God and enjoy him forever."

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
Hebrews 5:12-14

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Thursday, January 18, 2007
Let your Heart take Courage
It's taken me a long time to write this and even longer to decide to post it, so please take your time to read these first paragraphs before moving on to the rest.

If I'm honest, the only reason this will be published is that none of my family knows this blog exists. I don't write this dwelling in pity or looking for sympathy and I hope that your comments will reflect that. It was only through speaking to a Christian friend that I realised that others did feel this way even if nobody openly admits it. Instead I want to share part of my experience that I know others have faced, but I've never seen others write about it in the hope that it might help others in a similar position.

When I discovered that my little sister was pregnant, my very first reaction was not of joy or excitement but of pain. (There - I've said it. What do you think of me now?)

Why did I (and, as I was so thankful to discover, along with others) feel the pain of a burning skewer suddenly stabbing my heart? One part of it might be as the eldest daughter, I feel in some way that the first grandchild was my 'responsibility'. No-one in my family seems to realise that the little jokes that "She's beaten you to it" actually cause me pain.

Another aspect is my strong desire to be a wife and mother with no present opportunity to fulfill that. I have friends who are married who have struggled terribly with this as they try unsuccessfully to have children as everyone else around them seems to be having no difficulties. It makes me sad too that the birth of this child is not the completely joyous event that it should be. The emotions of our family have ranged from shock, anger, disappointment, concern and worry as much as joy, delight and excitement that a new baby will be born.

So how should we react to this? After discussion with girlfriends, it seems that the most helpful thing is to just sit quietly and pray without giving advice, rather like Job's friends did in the beginning (Job 2:11-13). Platitudes don't help and probably just serve to increase the guilt and shame of feeling like this. I don't know how to help women in this situation, so, remembering my thoughts in the second paragraph, I would appreciate your wisdom.

Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the LORD!

Psalm 27:14

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007
In All your Ways Acknowledge Him
Despite our many failings, our God is a faithful God. We can trust in him entirely, committing our way to God knowing that he acts for our good (Psalm 37:5). It is only through knowing God's word that we can come to a right understanding of ourselves and the world we live in, rather than from a man-centred view (Proverbs 2:6).

God promises to guide those seeking him, leading them to enternal glory (Psalm 73:24), but will cut off those who forsake his teaching (1 Chronicles 28:9). This does not take away from our responsibility in making God-honouring decisions, but we can trust that we cannot go outwith the protection of God's providence (Genesis 50:20-21, Proverbs 16:33). We know that our lives are not random or planned by capricious fates, but instead that each event is within God's will and will ultimately be worked to our good (Romans 8:28).

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007
The Day the Lord has Made
For being someone who normally carefully considers things and never makes a rash decision, yesterday I behaved rather out of character.

On Friday, we were sent our rotas for the next few months and I was delighted to notice that I had been given 2 weeks off in a row in late Spring. Yesterday during lunch I suddenly decided that I should go away somewhere.

Like a revelation while eating my soup, I reflected on the benefits of not being married or having children and that I can just decide to go abroad without reference to others and with minimal fuss. I hope to get married some day, so I decided that I might as well grab these opportunities when they come, rather than, as in the Colin Hay song, "waiting for my real life to begin".

I spent the afternoon looking at adventure holidays on the Internet (my junior doctor was not busy either so I didn't feel too bad about it!), and then sorted out a trip to Morocco to visit Marrakesh and climb Mount Toubkal, which at 14,700 feet is the highest peak in North Africa! I've never even been to the cinema on my own, so I don't really know what I am doing going on holiday by myself but I am really excited. (To my mother's relief, I am going to be part of a small group in Morocco.)

But, I think it is important to try not to be one of these people who doesn't begin to live their real lives until marriage or acts like life doesn't begin until after marriage. Whether it is not buying our own homes, not buying nice crockery and glassware, not going on holiday, not taking part in church family activities, it is easy not to act in anticipation of doing these with someone. We act like our single life is just a "holding room", that we are treading water until someone rescues us. I think I will be a more interesting and well-rounded wife, mother, friend and doctor for travelling so it will have benefits for my future life whatever that brings - and I'll have some amazing photos to share with you in just a few months!

Photos © Lonely Planet Images (Photographers: Christine Osborne, David Wall)

This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:24

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Monday, January 15, 2007
You are Not of the World
Another Christian Union is hitting the news in the United Kingdom. After Edinburgh University's Christian Union were banned running the Pure course on relationships, Exeter University's Christian Union has been suspended from the students' association, banned from university property and had their bank account frozen.

Their crime? Asking members to sign a declaration of their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord, Saviour and God and asking committee members to sign a fuller statement of belief. (Read the full story and statements from both the Student Guild and Christian Union at the BBC.)

The Student Guild claims that it is trying to protect "equal opportunities" because the Evangelical Christian Union will only allow evangelical Christians to hold positions of leadership, although meetings are open to everyone to attend. The Christian Union replies that, "Obviously going to court is the last thing we want to do but we feel that our fundamental right to freedom of expression, belief and association are being threatened here." (Later, the Student Guild apparently lifted the ban although this has yet to be confirmed.)

Exeter joins a long list of Christian Unions forcibly disassociated from the Students' Association, including the CU at my own university, but the first one to pursue this as far as the High Court. They are being supported by a number of eminent church leaders, including Lord Carey, and the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.

Along with many others, I worry that this is evidence of the continued erosion of Christian values in this country and increasing intolerance of the Christian faith under the masquerade of equal opportunities and political correctness. We need to support these organisations practically and in prayer as a matter of urgency rather than just accept this slide into secular fundamentalism.

If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
John 15:19

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Saturday, January 13, 2007
2. What rule has God given to direct us how to glorify and enjoy him?
The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.

In 2 Timothy 3:10-17, Paul writes to young Timothy to remind him of the importance of God's word and of its importance in his life. Just like Timothy's mother and grandmother who would have most probably followed Jewish custom in teaching him the Law from the age of 5, we have a responsibility to teach our children knowledge and application of the Bible to equip them with that sword of the Spirit (Eph 6:17).

I am told that bank tellers are given only real bank notes initially when they are trained to check for forgeries. When I first learned to examine people, I listened only to normal hearts and lungs before being let loose on real people with real diseases. In the same way, it is only by having a good knowledge of the Word of God and by studying it that we can then recognise false teachings or ideas and test what we hear or read against the truth (1 Tim 1:6-7).

There are warnings against adding to the Gospel (Gal 1:8-9), a trait that is so easy for any of us to fall into. Legalism is sometimes a struggle for my own denomination. In others, there may a tendency to universalism, belitting the work of Christ. It is almost as if we believe the Gospel couldn't possibly be as simple as it appears!

As we study the Bible, we can know that it is inspired by God written down by men "as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21). This gives it authority as the inerrant, infallible revelation of God in the world. It is sufficient for us, teaching us everything we need to know for salvation and to guide us to godliness until we join with the true and living Word in heaven.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17

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Friday, January 12, 2007
Discern what is the Will of God
How do we balance our belief in God's sovereignity over all of our lives and our responsibility to actively pursue God's will for our lives? It's the next subject dealt with in Debbie Maken's Getting Serious about Getting Married.

On one hand, there is God's sovereignity and the knowledge that his plan for our lives has been in place since before the world was created. This, however, does not mean that we are simply puppets, only able to act when God pulls our strings. Is refusing to actively pursue a marriage partner an example of acting like this? Maken describes it as "not trusting God. Rather it is refusing to follow his design for our lives."

She goes on to blame this partly on people's laziness but mainly on teaching from the church that "Singleness is a gift". If it is a gift, there are a lot of people who are not happy with it! Paul is clear that celibacy is a gift, but given to a select few set aside for a task that required them to be single. However, where does that leave the other millions of Christian singles?

I like the analogy of job applications. While I believe that God has planned a job for me, I can't just sit around hoping that a phone call will mysteriously come to offer me my next post, blaming my unemployment on "God's will". Instead, I sort out my CV, fill in job applications and attend interviews. Perhaps we should be considering our relationships in the same way.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:2

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Thursday, January 11, 2007
Days of your Youth
Until a few weeks ago, 'Aunt' was just an honorary title. However, on my travels, I have appear to have collected a few adopted neices and nephews so I enjoyed Carolyn McCulley's recent articles on Tradition and Tea Parties and Creating Aunt Traditions. A fellow Christian single, she said:
One of the aspects of parenthood that I've most envied are the "memory-making" events--the little traditions that create a special family intimacy. Last year, I decided to test the water with my oldest niece to see if she would respond to an aunt-bonding activity.
As you can see in the photo, my oldest honorary neice is only little, but I also seem to have adopted honorary little sisters along the way. Sometimes they are girls I've met and become friends with through the youth group. Sometimes they are girls who don't have a big sister and want someone a bit older to speak to who is not a relative and who perhaps is a bit more neutral. (It is sometimes easier to 'take advice' from a friend than it is to be told what to do by a parent, even when they are saying exactly the same thing!)

(As an aside, I've found that MSN Messenger has been so important for teen ministry. They all spend time chatting to each other on the internet and want to be able to chat with their leaders. Because they can't see you, they then will really start pouring their hearts out and bearing their souls on all sorts of issues.)

I see it as part of the Titus 2 relationship except, this time, we are the older women doing the teaching. We can use these special times to invest in these young lives, supporting them through difficult teenager years with all the changes and trials that brings, guiding them in their faith and life decisions. It is such a privilege to be in their confidence so it is important to be able to consistently spend time and energy with them and praying for them, so that they know their importance in our lives.

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, "I have no pleasure in them".
Ecclesiastes 12:1

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  posted at 06:16  
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Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Riches and Wisdom and Knowledge
God's wisdom is:
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Romans 11:33-36

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  posted at 16:45  
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Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Wisdom of the Wise: John Calvin
Our wisdom ought to be nothing else than to embrace with humble teachableness, and at least without finding fault, whatever is taught in Sacred Scripture.

John Calvin, French Reformation theologian (1509-64)

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  posted at 21:25  
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Monday, January 08, 2007
Your Wagon Tracks Overflow
One of my goals for 2007 is to join a movement led by Sallie at A Gracious Home in Celebrating a Year of Abundance. It's not meant to be about deprivation or living legalistically, but instead it's about being a good steward of what we already have and trying to focus less on material things. Along with the others, we will be following an old Depression Era motto:
Use it up
Wear it out
Make it do
Do without
While decluttering my house recently, I was amazed how many things I had, even down to toiletries that I had forgotten about and so bought more of them. I am now working steadfastly through using everything up before I buy more.

Another issue for me will be food. I live in a different city to the one where I work, so often I will stay up there during the week rather than drive home. This makes planning meals and sorting out food shopping more difficult. It is often just easier to buy food on my way back home and make a meal from that. If only to allow me to defrost the freezer, I need to make the effort to make my meals from the food I already have. It will force me to be a little more inventive and adventurous with my cooking over the next few weeks as I try to find combinations that work. Perhaps I should be glad that I live on my own and that no-one else will have to suffer this!

While sorting through a huge pile of paperwork hidden away in the spare room a few weeks ago, I was shocked to see how much stationery I own. (That weekend, I also developed a new hobby - shredding old documents is wonderfully satisfying!) Some of it I have had since I was in primary school! There will be no excuse for buying new stationery any time soon.

Part of what I am looking forward to is having a more uncluttered home, but I'm hoping to learn more about what is responsible stewardship for all of God gifts to me. Even already, as I have wandered around my house or done my shopping, I have almost heard your voices sitting on my shoulder gently reciting "Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do, Do without!"
Sallie also tells me that this week is National Delurking Week designed to get all the lurkers out there to comment on the blogs they visit. When I saw this advert for it, I just had to participate it so please comment somewhere if you've never commented before!
You crown the year with your bounty;
your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.

Psalm 65:11

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  posted at 09:13  
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Saturday, January 06, 2007
1. What is the Chief End of Man?
Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

"What is the meaning of life?" This must be the most-asked philosophical question ever. Why are we here? What is life all about? The meaning of it all is that God has made us to glorify him, not because we can add to his glory but so his glory can be demonstrated through us.

He does not wish to glorified in an egotistical way but instead through a reciprocal fellowship of love, where God has given of himself freely and his people praise him for this. It is only through Christ that we can have this relationship with God and experience real joy. Ultimately, this ends with joining God in heaven and being received into that glory (Ps 73:24-26).

Everything we do should be to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31), knowing that chasing the often sinful desires of our hearts can not bring satisfaction but more emptiness. It should be the outworking of our faith and the knowledge of what Christ has done that drives our ambitions towards glorifying God. As Asaph says, there should be "nothing on earth that I desire besides you" (Ps 73:24-26).

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Romans 11:36

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  posted at 14:31  
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Friday, January 05, 2007
Wisdom of the Wise: Minnie Louise Haskins
Minnie Louise Haskins, American teacher and writer (1875-1957)
(quoted by George VI in his Christmas broadcast of 1939)

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  posted at 13:49  
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Thursday, January 04, 2007
A Heritage from the Lord
I've got some news I've wanted to share with you for a few weeks: my little sister is pregnant!

pregnancy week by week

Admittedly, she is not as little as I think she is. In my head, she is about 14 and still at school, but is really 23 and a great nurse. (Sometimes I come to review diabetic patients on her ward. It's a bit weird doing a ward round with her, but she really is one of the best nurses I deal with.)

We are only two and a half years apart and, until we both left home, used to fight like cat and dog. I remember the day she was born, but probably only because I was very upset to have lost my little red Porsche when we visited them in the hospital! She still brings up in arguments that I bit her when she was just a few weeks old!

Thankfully, things have changed a lot since then and we have become such good friends. She thinks I am in some sort of religious cult because I don't just leave religion for Sundays, but equally enjoys coming to church with me and meeting all my friends when she visits. I am honoured to have been the first to know she was pregnant two minutes after she had taken the test.

They have only been going out with each other for about six months and living together for the last three months, so there is concern for them all mixed in with all the excitement. If you have just a little time as you visit here, please pray for her, her unborn baby and her boyfriend.

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
the fruit of the womb a reward.

Psalm 127:3

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  posted at 06:41  
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Wednesday, January 03, 2007
You Know it Altogether
The first Scripture I'm memorising this year focuses on God's knowledge. David, in Psalm 139, speaks directly to God of his character: his greatness as our Creator, his omniscience, his omnipresence and his wisdom. His knowledge of us is complete and extends to mundane parts of life and even to our secret thoughts, most of which are even those hidden from anyone else's view. His eyes are everywhere, searching each person's heart.

There are two ways to see this. We can be terrified at knowing this, knowing that God knows the real darkness of our hearts or we can be assured that God loves us even though he knows just how wicked we are and can praise him that he intimately understands and cares about us and every aspect of our lives. Because he knows our true depravity, he can prepare a perfect salvation for us.

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.

Psalm 139:1-4

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  posted at 06:17  
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Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Press On Toward the Goal
2007 is going to be an exciting year. I have no idea where I will be and what I will be doing in August, never mind this time next year. Thankfully, I know that my life will not come to together by coincidences and random events, but instead has been lovingly planned by a God who has plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give me a future and a hope. Whatever happens, I want to grow more and more in my relationship with and in my knowledge of God, and to walk with the Lord daily and in everything I do.

While reflecting on the past year and on the year ahead, I have decided to set myself some goals to help me focus and to have some accountability for my part in my growth over the next year. If I tell you about them, I'd better have a good excuse for not keeping them!

That said some of them might not be as important by the end of the year although I have tried to pick goals that will be good for me wherever I am and whatever is happening in my life.

It is also interesting to look back at previous goals to see what was important to me at the time and if I achieved them. While sorting through a box of school stuff, I found an old diary from 1995. My list of goals for before I was 25, ten years later, included becoming a doctor (done), having long hair (quite embarrassing this is in the same league as the last one but it has been done), getting my name into listings of the Radio Times (done) and being in a musical in the main theatre in my city (not done and I'm fine with that!).

My goals for 2007 are to:
  • Read through the whole Bible - I've done this once before in a year and found it very helpful to get everything in context and to see the Bible as a whole, rather than in fragmented pieces. I'm currently swithering (admittedly a bit late in the day!) between Robert Murray McCheyne's plan or reading through the Bible chronologically.


  • Memorise key Scripture - The publishers of the ESV Bible have a year's Scripture memorisation plan that covers the basics of Christianity with one passage for every week.


  • Learn a question from the Shorter Catechism every week - I think we have lost a great part of our heritage and a wonderful opportunity to learn basic tenets of faith when we stopped catechising children in Sunday school. I didn't go to Sunday school myself so I have decided to start learning them.


  • Practise hospitality more purposefully - Carolyn McCulley wrote a great article on this a few days ago. I'll write more about this, but I wanted to recommend it straight away.


  • Start singing lessons again - I used to do so much more singing when I was at university, but stopped when I started work. Having got my postgraduate exams out of the way, I should be able to find the time to do something I love.


  • Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do, Do without - I want to join the ladies of blogland, led by Sallie, in Celebrating a Year of Abundance.


  • Keep blogging - I never intended to start blogging at the beginning of the year but somehow fell into it. I have loved it though and really feel that I have grown from the discipline of writing and from the writings and fellowship over the internet of believers all over the world.
I'll write a little more about these in the days and weeks to come, but until then I'd be interested to know your resolutions or goals for the coming year if you are making them. For others' hopes and dreams for 2007, visit Laurel Wreath for more New Year Meditations.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:12-14

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  posted at 08:37  
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Monday, January 01, 2007
Happy New Year!
I just thought I would come to wish you all a Happy New Year before I get to bed. I've got work at 9am, so remember me as you enjoy sleeping in and big dinners with the family!
With lots of prayers for 2007.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne ?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp !
And surely I’ll be mine !
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
Words: Robert Burns, Scottish poet (1759-1796)
Tune: Traditional Scottish melody
Translation

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  posted at 01:54  
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About Me


Name:
Keziah

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