Sunday, January 30, 2011

Let your reading be like good wine...

Mike Reeves hits us again with the delight in reading theology and learning about theologians. This isn't a book that causes us to stand still but to "go back to the sources"! He takes us through Luther, Calvin, Owen, Edwards, Schleiermacher and Barth and spurs us on to read more about them and go to their works of theology and delve into the depths.

This is a book that starts to kindle our hearts and open our eyes to see that theology is far from boring and that modern day books of our time about christian living and Christ are perhaps not as satisfying as some of the works from past ages. Although don't be put off by what you may of heard in regards to some of these theologians, but I challenge you to read about them and for some of them - certainly Calvin, Luther and Edwards you cannot help but have your heart wooed to Christ. That's what you want in a book about theology and that's what they do...

I am tempted to make a bold statement and say to you to put down all those modern day authors - Driscoll, Piper, Chester and even Mike Reeves and pick up the works suggested by Reeves by Calvin, Luther, Edwards etc Pick them up and digest and read slowly and enjoy and relish the beauty of Christ and let your heart overflow with the joy of knowing Him more. Then once you do that, go on to others - Sibbs, Bunyan, Wesley etc

Also don't be put off by wrestling with what they are saying - they are not fast food theology, tweeting to your veins for quick snap information - no! its better and richer then that, in fact its like good wine or filter coffee, its to be smelt, swished, sipped and enjoyed. Let your reading be like good wine and good filter coffee. You will be surprised at what benefit it is to your soul and what relevance it is to your life now...
Don't stop at Reeves, go back to the sources!

Bish writes a review here.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

No sulky faces please...

"The theologian who has no joy in his work is not a theologian at all. Sulky faces, morose thoughts and boring ways of speaking are intolerable" -  (In the book "On Giants Shoulders", quote from Karl Barth)

Do I have joy in my work? In theology?
Or is my Christian life one sulky face and is spoken in a dull manner?... 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Christ is a physician good at all diseases

What will Christ do to us Christians that feel bruised and broken? Will he cast us away? Will he tell us to get over ourselves? Will he judge us and call us pathetic? Thankfully not.

Sibbs goes on to show how Christ is full of mercy - "Physicians, though they put their patients to much pain, will not destroy nature, but raise it up by degrees. Surgeons will lance and cut, but not dismember. A mother who has a sick and self willed child will not therefore cast it away. And shall there be more mercy in the stream than in the spring? Shall we think there is more mercy in ourselves than in God, who plants the affection of mercy in us?"

This gives me most comfort of all, that Christ has much more mercy then I do, yet sometimes I think Christ will judge me more harshly. But when we think of Christ and the names he gives himself, we cannot escape how tender he is towards those that mourn and come to him with a humble heart. 

Sibbs continues - "But for further declaration of Christ's mercy to all bruised reeds, consider the comfortable relationships he has taken upon himself of husband, shepherd and brother, which he will discharge to the utmost. Shall others by his grace fulfill what he calls them unto, and not he who, out of his love, has taken upon him these relationships, so thoroughly founded upon his Father's assignment, and his own voluntary undertaking?"

Christ is full of tender mercy. I think Sibbs wants to encourage us to come to Christ on our knees and find comfort in Him and not be afraid. This picture of Christ as a Shepard and husband is full of love and kindness and the scriptures continue to remind us of how Christ invites us to come to Him when we are in times of need - 

" Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)

"He is a physician good at all diseases, especially at the binding up of a broken heart." - Page 9

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Praying mirrors the Gospel (pt2)

Yesterday we looked at the 6 am Christian and how our attitudes to prayer can be wrong... today we are going to look at how praying mirrors the Gospel. These are notes taken from a Team Day by Jim Walford.

If I was to ask you this question - "What is the best thing about being a Christian?" what would your answer be?

Perhaps it may be on the lines of eternal fire insurance - a one way ticket out of hell or even being a part of a community where you are accepted.
When I watch programmes on TV about what Christianity is, I am always swallowed up by the sheer amount of talk about how Christianity can improve your life or how its about following the 10 commandments.

But I think we sometimes miss the best thing ever about being a Christian which is having a relationship with God as Father. Furthermore within this relationship, like any relationship there is communication. This is prayer. We can pray to our Father who created the heavens and the earth.

During our Team Day with the South West, Jim Walford opened our eyes to the warmth of being able to communicate and enjoy our relationship with our Father in heaven. He took us back to the state of our being which is helplessness. We are helpless, proud beings that like to think we are in control but actually we are utterly dependant on our Father and like children we need to see that we are helpless and need to come to our Father for everything...

This is how praying mirrors the Gospel. Its the helpless dependence on our heavenly Father and we approach him by no achievement of our own but by His sons blood. But the point being is that the Father delights in us coming to Him as little children, depending on him, asking him for everything we need and enjoying a relationship with him. God looks at the humble and receives him -

"This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word" - Isaiah 66:2

Just three quick points as I know this has just been a summary of what we were taught:

1. Why pray? - Because we can cry "Abba Father" as sons of the Father
2. How? - Like a child, helpless and dependant on our father
3. What? - Pray everything, all worries, ideas, wants, needs... he is listening.

Praying is good, whatever time of day it is...

(I apologise that this came up on your RSS feed early - blogger went crazy and published this early!)

Friday, January 21, 2011

The 6 am Christian (Pt1)

You know who I mean. That Christian that wakes at 5 am in order to pray at 6 am... you know this person because they tell you that they do this... and if you say you pray later then that - well your prayers are obviously not heard. There are some real bad attitudes with praying and we (I) can fall into two camps - Guilty Christian and Proud Christian. Both thinking waking up early to spend many hours in prayer or even bible meditation is more godly then praying at 10pm...

Night Owl - Guilty Christian?

This Christian is perhaps the night owl and prefers the midnight silence where the house is still and you open your bible and read "when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;" (Psalm 63:6). In the darkness the light of the Lord seems brighter and you rejoice of the day that's been...

But then you read those biographies of George Muller and other great missionaries and theologians and they recall how they woke up so early and prayed for hours starting at 4 am.... eekkk... Guilt Guilt....
Or you meet a fellow Christian and they go on about how their 3 hour prayer was a blessing and they are so disciplined everyday cos they woke up so early...then they stare at you and the words spit out of their mouths "So what time do you get up?"....eeekkkk Guilt Guilt Guilt....What runs around your head? Well... this is what runs around my head...

I am a failure for not being spiritually disciplined as you...(Guilt!)
My prayers are obviously rubbish compared to your morning soaked prayers...(Pride!)
I should just be like you (strange pride and Guilt)

The Morning person - Proud Christian?

This Christian enjoys the sunrise and sings with the birds... they enjoy opening the bible as the suns beams ripple across passages such as "But I, O Lord, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you." (Psalm 88:14) They rejoice that a new day is being unfolded....

But sometimes pride seeps in and your heart begins to shout "hey, I woke up early to pray..."... now everyone knows..eeekkk pride!. Its easy to think you are doing well when you get up at 6 am everyday to pray...but what if you miss it? eekkkk guilt..... oh no! Better set three alarms....
Or you easily get up and enjoy it and yet see any other Christian who might get up later but stay up later as less then you... evidently you are better... eeekk pride.

I think both attitudes are simply dangerous. This is not cultivating the right attitude to prayer. I am a night owl, my best times with praying to God and reading the bible is at night. Many people I know are morning people and enjoy prayer early in the morning. Both I think both are great...I am not sure it matters what time it is, the important thing is our hearts and talking with our loving Father through the Son...

When we start to feel guilty or proud we need to come back to the Gospel. We need to come back to the Cross. Who are we in Christ and does that change depending on the time of the day?...

Maybe we need to start encouraging each other to pray and to embrace diversity and character in prayer...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

To be bruised and yearning

Sibbs described being bruised as:

"The bruised reed is a man that for the most part is in some misery, as those were that came to Christ for help, and by misery he is brought to see sin as the cause of it...This is such an one as our Saviour Christ terms `poor in spirit' (Matt. 5:3), who sees his wants, and also sees himself indebted to divine justice." (page 3 and 4)

To be bruised is to be in some form of misery, seeing your sin and knowing that only Christ can quench any thirst. Sibbs goes on to say "He has no means of supply from himself or the creature, and thereupon mourns, and, upon some hope of mercy from the promise and examples of those that have obtained mercy, is stirred up to hunger and thirst after it."

To hunger and thirst for Christ is good because in the darkness and in misery, Christ is the only one you can cling to. There are indeed great hope when being and feeling like a bruised child of God. And do you not find that the Gospel can appear very soothing when we grasp it and remind ourselves of it in times of heartache?

So Sibbs then shows us how being bruised can bring about good effects such as these:

1. The Gospel becomes sweet to us! Sibbs says: "Again, this bruising makes us set a high price upon Christ. Then the gospel becomes the gospel indeed; then the fig leaves of morality will do us no good."

2. It makes us more thankful to God - "and, from thankfulness, more fruitful in our lives; for what makes many so cold and barren, but that bruising for sin never endeared God's grace to them?"

3. Aligns us with Gods ways - "Likewise this dealing of God establishes us the more in his ways, having had knocks and bruisings in our own ways."

4. To humble us - "After conversion we need bruising so that reeds may know themselves to be reeds, and not oaks. Even reeds need bruising, by reason of the remainder of pride in our nature, and to let us see that we live by mercy. 

5. To encourage us - "Such bruising may help weaker Christians not to be too much discouraged, when they see stronger ones shaken and bruised."

How encouraging is that! God never wastes the season we are in, he enriches us and shapes us for our good! And so I want to end this post with one more encouraging thing Sibbs says when we encounter people that may judge us as we struggle like a bruised reed -

"Ungodly spirits, ignorant of God's ways in bringing his children to heaven, censure broken hearted Christians as miserable persons, whereas God is doing a gracious, good work with them. It is no easy matter to bring a man from nature to grace, and from grace to glory, so unyielding and intractable are our hearts."

Monday, January 17, 2011

Getting lost on a walk

Went for a walk on Saturday and got very lost with Tim... but managed to take some pictures of lovely Devon...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Highlights of 2010

Every year I look back and note down its highlights and things that have challenged me! And as I look back its been a bit of a rollercoaster! So here are 5 highlights (not in any order):

1. Living in Peru - a challenging, complex, emotional and fun rollercoaster that was jam packed full of experiences that have changed me. I saw Jesus very clearly during my time in Peru and realised how I much I needed Him.

2. New CU in Huaraz - There is indeed a new Christian Union in Huaraz and it was a pleasure to work alongside the students, encourage them and hopefully allowed them to carry on through the years as a CU.

3. Engaged - I got engaged in the summer to Tim and a new chapter in my life begins to unfold as I start to prepare to be a wife with my partner in crime, ready to take on the world with randomness, laughing and a deep love for Jesus! What a mission team! :)

4. New Job - I got a job and its one that God has put on my heart for a long time. Telling students about Jesus. Sharing the Gospel. Working with CU and hopefully encouraging students the way I was encouraged when I was a student by my staff worker and relay workers. Its good to be a part of this team in UCCF and share the vision.

5. New Church, New location - I have moved around a lot this year and finally God has placed my feet in Plymouth and here I will be until he tells us to move again. This leads on to a new church - Waterfront City Church which is a part of New Frontiers. Its so good to be a part of the family and to have a new mission field in Plymouth - this will be a great time of being out of my comfort zone! :)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Our comfort as Bruised Reeds

In times of great emotional hurt, where we may feel like being engulfed in darkness or just feeling downcast and tired, we must as children of God remember the great truth of Christ. 
I know that in times of tiredness and just allowing things to build up I do find myself forgetting who Jesus is and the promises that are in Him and the great comfort he gives us. Its interesting that when we continue to look at ourselves and our situations, we lose focus on the one whom has the greatest love and care for us. 

Sibbs writes:

"And what comfort is this, that, seeing God's love rests on Christ, as well pleased with us, if we be in Christ" (pg 2)

And he goes on to say:

"Let us, therefore, embrace Christ, and in him Gods love, and build our faith safely on such a Saviour that is furnished with so high a commission" (pg2)

We can forget that the Father is well pleased of us. It is to easy and wrongly to think that the Father is some tyrant hiding behind gentle Jesus. Lets change the focus - the Father is well pleased with us because of Christ. 

This really comforts me! The language is so rich here - "embrace Christ and in him Gods love". Embrace Christ fully and feel Gods love and know Gods love and know that he is pleased with us. This comfort should grip our hearts in times of self doubt, feeling low and comparing ourselves with others, because we can remind our hearts of the love of God towards us and our status in Him! Thats an amazing foundation to build upon. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Balm to my Soul

Richard Sibbs once said to Thomas Goodwin - "Young man, if ever you would do good, you must preach the Gospel and the free grace of God in Christ Jesus". This is something I need to hear in my Christian walk, in my job as a Staff Worker and as a member of the local church and this is exactly what the "Bruised Reed" by Sibbs, did for me. It preached to me the Gospel and the free Grace of God. It reminded me of the beauty of Christ and the joy of knowing the Lord. 

Martyn Lloyd-Jones said that this book was "balm to my soul" at a time in his life when he was tired and downhearted. When we face a psalm 42 season, its easy to look inwards and let sin and self pity spiral out of control. But when we look outwards and towards the glory of Jesus Christ then His words and Grace will certainly be a balm to our souls. 

So, what I plan to do is to share with you once a week for the next few weeks or maybe months some snippets of the Bruised Reed so that they may be balm to your soul and encourage you as you walk with God and in times where you may find yourself in a season of heartache, discouragement, tiredness or darkness. May you know the joy that is in the saving Grace of God and the tenderness of our loving Father. I also encourage you to read this book, it will soothe you. 

So lets begin on this journey with firstly looking at what it is to be bruised and then to what it means to be a smoking flax and how Christ uses both. Let us slowly contemplate and warm our hearts to Christ.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
        or make it heard in the street;
     a bruised reed he will not break,
        and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
        he will faithfully bring forth justice.
 (Isaiah 42:2-3 ESV)

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Staff Conference 2011

You always know if you are at a Christian conference when its in the middle of nowhere, coffee on tap and full of diverse people that would probably never talk to each other if they were not Christian. It makes me chuckle. Of course thats not what its all about!

Last week was Staff Conference and it was refreshing and I really enjoyed it and was reminded how amazng Jesus is! Here are some of my thoughts from the week:

1. God is light. This is so important because life can seem very dark at times and we can hide in darkness. But God is light and guides us and surrounds us.

2. Evangelism isn't about throwing up the Gospel. Its about conversation, relationships and sometimes dropping a brick.

3. God asks 3 questions in Genesis 3 and they relevant now.

4. It is a blessing to have this time of fellowship and I enjoyed chatting and be encouraged by my colleagues.

5. Late night chats are the best, even if its at 1am.

6. Worldviews are powerful and just because we may not understand them doesn't mean we label them "stupid". We need time and patience to understand where people are coming from. Its all about art of conversation.

7. Am I using my degree? Am I reading books that engage my mind?

8. IFES Europe is in need of support and encouragement. We are blessed in the UK to have all this support - lets branch out.

9. When we get to the throne of God, will we say - "Gosh, I wished I invested more time in this"

10. I love my job. I love the students in Plymouth and I love working in the South West and I love the friends I have made on my team and those in other regions. I am looking forward to meeting up with you all again soon :)

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Lights in the sky

New Years after the bells toll 12... Lights were in the sky:

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Back to childhood

Think adventures. Think pirates. Swords. Sandwiches. Making dens in the woods. Battling the enemy, sailing around the world and all in time for dinner.

This Christmas I had the pleasure of seeing "Swallows and Amazons" the musical with the Caird family. I have never read the Arthur Ransome books, but just from watching this musical, I really love it! There was so much imagination, story, innocence and adventure with not an ipod or facebook in sight. There was realy enjoyment in watching this on stage and feeling like you were a part of the adventure!

If you want to go back to your childhood days of making dens in the woods and climbing trees then these stories will certainly cause you to travel back to those days. There is indeed an Arthur Ransome society which is worth checking out.

I do hope that if we have children, that we can divert them away from the glaring screen and into the garden or local woods so that the area can be turned into castles, hideouts and battlegrounds for amazing adventures.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

A new start

A new start. That is what new years are all about. Now I am not one for resolutions simply because I can never stick to them. Truth be told I think I am too lazy to stick to them, yet if I was to make a list I reckon these would be my top 5 resolutions:

1. Take up exercise - run every morning or take up some kind of exercise class! I use to do loads of exercise and it was good and I felt good! But the chances of this happening is quite slim. Unless I get the Wii fit and start running on the spot in my living room! 

2. Join a book club - This may actually happen because I love books and chatting about books. But its always that stumbling block of having to meet new people and introduce yourself and then having to read the book. But there again it would be a great way of meeting people and I love reading. 

3. Commit to a certain amount of Spanish practise a day. You see I speak Spanish in the loose sense of the terms, being in Peru for a year means you pick up a thing or two but then it disappears into vapor as soon as you realize that you can buy bread without stumbling out words that might be totally wrong....

4. Try something new each week - Like baking a new recipe. Going to a new coffee shop. Talking to someone new. That kind of thing!

5. Be more disciplined. Sure I know that Christianity is all about Grace. But there is a connection between being disciplined in prayer and bible meditation to someone who doesn't do it. I read great missionaries rising up 3 hours before the sun and devoting the day to God. Yet I can barely open my eyes during mid morning, let alone start talking to someone! But you never know what could happen!

Well... the likelihood of any of these happening is a possibility, yet probably not all of them and yes I am going in with a defeated attitude already so I am setting myself up for a fall, yet I know what I am like.
I think I just want to start the new year afresh considering there will be so many changes happening. Its time to create new friendships, soak in where I am living, enjoy the life I am given and not envy a different path or try to compete with everyone! Instead I am to love the man who will be my husband soon with deep passion, enjoy good food and company, love Church and devote this all to Jesus. 

So some changes on my blog. A new colour. More about life stuff - making cards, recipes, devotions, photography, going for walks, movies, books, art, real stuff. Not that it wasn't real before, but perhaps this time it will be less showy, less competing with those theological blogs (which this blog never was, I just hoped it would be!). Hopefully this will be more me. Well, I can try can't I?