Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Life and the sovereignty of God

Life, I really am struggling to come up with something philosophical to say about life at the moment.  It's wonderful and dreadful all in one go.  We do live in a constant state of tension between the beauty of it and the decay of it.  

I don't believe in coincidence. The weekend, 29/30th of September,  I was speaking at a women's camp with my sister. The session I had the privilege to lead was a Bible study, Psalm 118.  The over riding point I was hoping to make in this study, is; God is sovereign over all, and we can trust Him because He is good and His love endures forever. And I believe that to my core, especially in the beauty of life.  My preparation started a month ago, a lot can happen in a month.

Two before ago a dear friend was diagnosed with breast cancer, it is a miracle they found it in the first instance and we are so thankful there are treatment options available for her. Within three weeks she went from active, presumed healthy woman to surgery and intense treatment.  Three weeks!  I guess that's a relatively gentle thought, for some life changes instantaneously.  In resent days, a young boy from my children's school was hit by a car on a crossing.  In an instant life can changed.  Where is God in circumstances like these? This leads us to ask questions of God, what kind of a God would allow... What kind of God do we serve?  This question is possibly the easier to answer because he tells us in his Word.

God is good. By good, we often mean behaves well, or doesn't bite, kick or steal, uses manners, doesn't do anything wrong.  But the goodness of God is vastly different.  God is good in nature, in essence, in total being, He is good.  
Spurgen writes, "He is always to be praised whether we are receiving anything from him or not.  Those who only praise God because he does them good should rise to a higher note and give him thanks because he is good. Int he truest sense he alone is good, "there is not good but one, that is God"; therefore in al gratitude the Lord should have the royal portion.  If others seem to be good, he is good. If othes are good in a measure, he is good beyond meausre.  When others behave badly to us, it should only stir up the more heartily to give thanks unto the Lord because he is good; and when we ourselves are consious that we ar far from being good, we should only the more reverntly bless him that 'he is good'."
In the most difficult circumstances to know that God is good, in essence and nature, he actually is goodness, that's what he is.  This can give us something near tangible to hold tight to, something to lean on, or fall back upon, someone to trust.  
Spurgen concludes, "We must never tolerate an instant's unbelief as to the goodness of the Lord; whatever else may be questionable, this is absoutely certain, that Jehovah is good; his dispensations may vary, but his nature is always the same, and is always good.  It is not only that he was good, and will be good, but he is good; let his povidence be what it may.  Therefore let us even at this present moment, through the skies be dark with clouds, yet give thanks unto his name."
To know God, to understand his ways are higher, so very much higher than my ways, this is such a comfort. The Bible tells us to expect hardships (Acts 14:22), and this was used as an encouragement to remain true to the faith, for the disciples of Paul and Barnabas.  Expect hardships.  Why?  In her book To Live is Christ, Beth Moore outlines why hardships are inevitable for us; firstly "God wants to give us eternal victory by working His glory in and through them (hardships)."  Secondly "Satan wants to bring us defeat by causing us to struggle and fall. Hardships are inevitable because of the glorious nature of God and the heinous nature of Satan."  

The 'why' and 'who' of circumstances and God is quite a work out for the old grey matter, and I by no means think I have it pegged.  But two things I do know; God is good, and time may tell us why, and if not, we can trust that He knows and his ways are higher so the view is better.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Resources for Parents

My faith family is committed to assist parents to disciple their children to know Jesus and His great love for each one of us. The last sermon series; Our God-Breathed Bible, reminded us of the true value of the Word of God and our church wide memory verse summed it up “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realise what is wrong in our lives,  It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”.  Seeds Family Worship is a great resource for families who are interested in encouraging their children to continue to memorise the truth of the Bible through the Word of God to music.

For most parents the thought of kids music is enough to invest in ear plugs.  However Seeds Family Worship is not cringe-worthy, the music is well constructed and performed by highly talented musicians, it is not cheesy, it is easy to listen to.  The best bit – it’s pure scripture.

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:6-7

Once you get a verse into your head it is hard to repeat it without singing it!

Seeds website is rich full of resources to help you learn more about their music and ministry and to give families ideas on how to incorporate Jesus into fun family times. Take some time to visit to discover their music and more.

See Parenting Resources for more great ideas for parents and Building Strong Families for 4 valuable sermons for parents.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Girl Porn

Now there’s an eye catching title!  So often we can hear the word pornography and think “now that’s a man thing”.  And you’d be right, although not exclusively! From whichever angle you look at it, pornography is a slippery slope that very soon becomes addictive.  Men often make excuses for looking at porn, saying it helps their marriage. Some call it innocent - just a bit of fun. Apparently some even try to convince us that there are interesting stories in some of those magazines!! I can’t argue with them as I’ve never read one and don’t imagine I’ll start now!! However I can see clearly how the Bible talks of a “husband and wife becoming one flesh”. (Mark 10:7-8) Not two becoming one helped by the images of others.  I’m definitely not picking on men because in the statistics that identifies those who view pornography, women do not lag far behind men. But what I want to tackle today is a much more socially acceptable version that us girls tend to fall for.  Now you may laugh when I say this, but before you think I’m blowing things out of all proportion, just hear me out.

Socially acceptable ‘girl porn’, masquerades in the form of best selling romance novels and movies that can so easily leave us with expectations that destroy our relationships.  The ‘heroes and heroines’ in the books or movies do not exist, that is why of course they are called fiction.  Yet once we read or watch something, we think to ourselves “it would be so nice if my husband was that tender, sweet, thoughtful, romantic, generous, or physically attractive”.  Or for those not married, you can have a ‘potential mate’ list full of characteristics that are unrealistic or unreasonable.  Why do we seek perfection in our mate when we are happy to accept a lower standard in ourselves?  How often do we think “I need to be more like the heroine in the book or movie”?  It is our natural bent to be selfish and without a doubt these books and movies feed that bent.

Now, I’m not bagging all books and movies.  However I do think we need to be so careful what we feed our minds and how often we feed them.  I can still remember scenes in books or movies I read or saw over 10 years ago. Things stick in our minds don’t they? We have an uncanny ability to forget where we put our keys a few moments ago, yet we can remember an intimate scene from a movie we saw years ago.  Surely I’m not the only one? 

Proverbs 4:23 remind us of the importance of guarding our hearts:

“Keep your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life”.  

God in His tenderness towards us gives us guidelines that are very practical and sensitive to our weaknesses. God cares about your relationships. He knows we can easily lose our way through having unrealistic expectations. These can ruin a marriage faster than anything and sadly it’s a trap we often walk into willingly. Unmet, unrealistic expectations lead to resentment and disrespect, and from there the slippery slope becomes a mud slid!!!  I urge you ladies to dig your heels in and stop in your tracks. 

We choose our husbands based on all the information we know about them and we willingly make this choice with the expectation that it will be forever.  No one enters marriage thinking “He will be my first husband’’.    Think back now, to why you decided he was the one.  Or for those yet to be married, look at your list and pick your 3 most important characteristics, the ones you want to live with forever.  When you cut to the chase, would you prefer a man of integrity, who you could depend upon, or a man who gave you flowers regularly? Now I’m not saying “don’t bring flowers”, but think about it. Integrity is the part of character that promotes trust, while flowers are only a gesture.  We need to choose wisely what we feed our minds, so we build our relationships up to honour God. No matter if something is socially acceptable, let’s challenge ourselves, is what we are reading and watching, creating unrealistic expectations?  Porn is not just a guy problem, it’s our problem too. Let us be exclusive in our marriages, spending time investing in real relationships rather than fictional ones.