Archive for the ‘Other’ Category

A little of my own medicine…

Wednesday March 28, 2007

It was about six months ago that I had the privilege of being on a Q&A panel for Christian students just about to move to university, to find answers to some of the things they were wondering about. To wrap up, we were each asked to say one thing that hadn’t been covered yet and mine was this: “Make sure you eat properly and sleep properly. It can be hard to look after yourself well, but it’s much harder to be joyful and eager to work hard and serve if you’re low on energy.” Not the most profound statement of the day, to be sure, but it is true and I’ve realised it again over the last few weeks, and realised how bad I am at keeping to it. Being busy makes me think I don’t have time to cook – then having little energy means I lose my appetite and don’t cook. From there it just gets worse!

Of course the holidays are a great time to catch up on eating, but I want to use them for more than that. So I’m going to spend time cooking to remind myself that cooking is quite fun, and really pretty easy. (I should caveat that – making nice food takes a lot of work and often is a long way beyond me, but simply making a meal out of food isn’t hard.) As I do (though probably not actually while frying, boiling or baking) I’m going to write the successes and failures to remind me the next time I use the ‘making food takes effort excuse’ to avoid it.

I started by last night making a chicken curry – something which I assumed was totally out of my league until I found that you get jars of stuff that do it for you! It really is as simple as starting to fry the meat, then adding in the paste and whatever else you feel like and leaving it to cook through. A bit of rice and naan on the side and you’re all set. Well, unless you mess it up. For a start, I wasn’t paying attention when I got the chicken so picked up thighs which were very nice, but (what with being on the bone) would have taken more effort than I wanted to chop up. So I put them in the oven for about 20 minutes until they came easily off the bone (not my good idea, I’ll admit). Then I did the sauce separately and assembled at the last minute. It meant the meat didn’t have as much flavour, but saved a lot of time! Also, adding flaked almonds and coconut milk to the sauce is nice, but be careful. It was a slightly unusually wet curry due to a slip while pouring…

We started with a vegetable soup that Mum made – literally chopped veg boiled in very little water and with a stock cube. Good and filling, and probably the easiest way I know to have a lot of good-for-you.

PS. One thing I’ve been suspecting for a couple of weeks and confirmed a few days ago – a tin of baked beans makes for a perfectly respectable (and incredibly quick and easy!) pasta sauce.

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To the Father

Sunday March 18, 2007

As the CU committee meets up to pray together we also want to learn more about prayer so that we can lead the CU in praying better. As part of that, I’m hoping to go through a short series over the next three months looking at what Ephesians 2:18 (in context) means by praying to the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit. First up, then, is praying “to the Father”. This is roughly what I’m hoping to say on Wednesday – it’s a huge subject so we have to skim over it, but if anything is unclear or I’ve missed anything important do comment!

Say what Ephesians 2:18 says and introduce what we’re going to do over the next three prayer meetings.

If you open up Matthew 6 that’d be helpful. While you’re going there, I should say that this doesn’t mean that praying to Jesus is wrong – in 1 Timothy 1 Paul says that he thanks Jesus – but the vast majority of prayers in the Bible, and the message of the teaching on prayer, is that we pray to the Father. What does that mean? I think Matthew 6:5-8 give us two lessons to learn about this.

Firstly, in verses 5 and 6, don’t be like the hypocrites, pray to the Father who sees. Religious people want everyone to know that they’re praying, so they pray where everyone can see them. And they are rewarded for it, but the only reward they receive is the praise of other men. By contrast, we should pray in our rooms – in private – to the Father. The Bible commends praying together, but coming to prayer meetings should be the tip of the iceberg of our prayer, and most of it is hidden where nobody sees except the Father, who sees what is done in private. It also means that when we pray together we still pray to the Father, not to each other – if the reason you don’t want to say anything out loud is that you’re worried what the rest of us will think about it then your heart may be more concerned with the praise of other people than the approval of God. Don’t be like the hypocrites, pray to the Father who sees.

Secondly, in verses 7 and 8, don’t be like the pagans, pray to the Father who knows. If your God is a distant God rather than a Father, you will think that you need to impress him with your theology or your endurance in prayer. But our God is our Father so we don’t need to twist his arm, we just pray to him. Moreover, God already knows what we need and what’s best for us, so we don’t need to lay out every detail of what we want him to do. Theology is good as it allows us to relate to God more appropriately, but you’ll never convince God by babbling about it. So while we’re praying together, if someone says a really “good” prayer don’t be afraid to follow it with something very simple, even “Father, please would the CU serve you better”. And don’t measure someone else by the length of their prayer – God doesn’t. Don’t be like the pagans, pray to the Father who knows.

Once he’s explained what it means to pray to the Father, Jesus begins his model prayer with: “Our Father in heaven”. Know that your God is your Father, who loves you and knows what you need. Know that your God is the awesome God in heaven so do fear and respect him appropriately. Let’s pray to our Father…

Humility

Sunday March 11, 2007

C.J. Mahaney is an American pastor I think you really should know about. I’m really not the right person to write his biography but I can tell you that he has lead Sovereign Grace Ministries for some time now, he’s one of the Together for the Gospel (T4G) guys and he is the husband or father of the girls at the Girl Talk blog (which is, I think, well worth reading even if you don’t fit into the “girl” category). Oh, and read his “Living the Cross Centered Life” soon!

There are many things I love about Mr Mahaney and his ministry – chief of which is how obvious it is that everything he says is built on a conviction of the centrality of the gospel and the authority of the Bible, and his love of each is impossible to miss. Another key to his work is that he seeks after clear and practical applications, so I wasn’t surprised that his recent talk at the Shepherds’ Conference on humility ended with several helpful ways of finding and dealing with pride. There are applications specific to pastors (the audience he was speaking to) and then those which will apply for everyone. Can I commend the talk (sumarised here by Tim Challies) to you if you’re someone who is prone to pride (otherwise known as a person) as a reminder of God’s hatred of our pride and an encouragment to cultivate humilty. For myself, I’m going to try to take his advice to remember first and last thing in the day that I am dependent on God and to vocalise that as I wake up and as I sleep.

Slow down

Tuesday February 27, 2007

As much as I love spending time thinking things through as I write, I don’t have the time over the next few weeks to do it as much as I’d like. So I’ve set myself a rule not to spend time here apart from on Sundays – that way I can hopefully feast on the Bible and the gospel and be ready for church in the evening, and the rest of the week focus on working and serving. I’m currently working on the first chapter of Habakkuk which is sobering stuff, but I’m going away for the weekend so it’ll be a while before I get to finish it. That means I have something to look forward to while I’m in circuits lectures, though.

Saturday 24/02/07

Tuesday February 27, 2007

Yet another chance to hang out with good friends and laugh about silly things – how else are we going to make sure we don’t take ourselves seriously?! Seriously, though, if your friends told you (late at night, after a lot of batner and teasing) that there was an animal called a manatee which looks like a dolphin, is a close relative to the elephant and is also known as a sea-cow would you believe them or think they were pulling your leg? I went for the second option, and called their bluff to the point of typing “manatee” into the search box in Wikipedia – at which point I ended up with a very large amount of egg on my face. I think I may also have been signed up to adopt a manatee, so I have a feeling this isn’t going to go away for a long time… Oh well, that means there should be plenty more chances to laugh at myself.

At the worst, I can just pull up a picture of a manatee and have a laugh at that. It looks pretty stupid!

Friday 23/02/07

Saturday February 24, 2007

It was just yesterday I was musing that I hadn’t come across anything that really made me laugh for a little while. I really shouldn’t have been too surprised, then, that today brought plenty of opportunities for a giggle. The first was a friend of mine recounting her story of getting stuck in the lifts. Probably wasn’t funny at the time, but it’s the way she tells it! Another not-funny-at-the-time one was a different friend coming up behind me, grabbing me and yelling ‘boo’ as I was reading. It had me chuckling as he left, though.

But this evening things really started going. My prayer triplet came round and after the chatting and praying we got down to making some pancakes. Now, it was after 11 and we aren’t culinary geniuses so we were pretty sure it was going to be fun. Somehow we managed to make 6 pancakes out of a recipe for 16 and they just kept getting thicker. By the end we had a rolled up jam pancake which was aptly described as ‘more like a swiss roll’. We also passed the ‘everything becomes funny’ time of night and spent a lot of time laughing at dried fruit (“Sultans’ wives are called sultanas – stands to raisin”, “that joke’s so dated – it’s just not currant”) and expanding foam (our handy man has put it everywhere to stop mice, including sealing one door so it now won’t open).

To round off the evening, one of us – no names! – absently mindedly dropped a pan of very hot oil into the sink of cold water and we had a firework show before going to bed. Thank God for good times, good friends and good laughs.

Jeremiah 8:8

Sunday February 18, 2007

I spent about two and a half hours Friday night talking with Muslims and trying to persuade them that Christianity and Islam are completely different. As I often find when I’m talking to Muslims it was frustrating and heart-breaking and all I can do is pray that God will show them what grace really is. Part of the problem is that whatever a Christian says the Muslim will respond, “but the Bible’s been corrupted”. The overwhelming evidence that this isn’t the case (I was at the British Museum and Library on Wednesday looking at archaelogical and manuscript evidence which paints an overwhelming case for the Bible being historically reliable and textually preserved) and the fact that the Qu’ran gives no suggestion that this is the case aren’t my point here – yesterday I found out that they can make the case from within the Bible.

Thankfully it was Joel who showed me on the way home rather than a Muslim bringing it up during our discussion. Jeremiah 8:8 is the verse that Joel’s been confronted with before, and it says:

How can you say, “We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us”? But behold, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie.

This doesn’t seem good – it looks like the Bible itself says that parts of it have been corrupted by unscrupulous scribes. Joel, though, also showed me what the verse really means. We need to take a trip to 2 Kings 22, with a brief layover in Jeremiah 1:3 to see that Jeremiah received this prophecy during the thirteenth year of Amon’s son Josiah, the king of Judah.

It is after two kings who did “evil in the sight of God” and led the Israelites in idolatry (Manasseh and Amon in 2 Kings 21) that the eight year old Josiah became king. 2 Kings 22 recounts how he paid for the restoration of the Temple and how during this work the Book of the Law was found. The book had been lost and as soon as Josiah heard it he was distraught at the state of Israel, found God’s will and, in chapter 23, started to make reforms. So where does Jeremiah fit into this? 2 Kings 22:3 tells us that the Temple renovations were in the eighteenth year of Josiah – five years after Jeremiah’s prophechy. Suddenly everything falls into place.

God was angry with the scribes because they said they had the “law of the LORD” when they didn’t even know where the book was! Instead, the scribes were teaching (and writing) whatever they felt like – which presumably included that Israel’s idolatry was okay. Jeremiah prophecies that they will be punished for this – which happens – but through it all we can see that God made sure his law was preserved, even though it was completely ignored for a while. In its historical context, then, not a proof that what we now have in our Bibles differs from what was originally writen by Moses.

A series of unusual responses

Friday February 16, 2007

It seems that most of my best days are the ones where I’ve seen most clearly how much I’m a complete idiot. As I’ve mentioned in the post below, theRebelution.com have just released the results of a massive Modesty Survey. Having watched over the last few months as they first announced it, developed it, guarded against legalism and self-righteousness and radiated grace I was excited to see it finished. Convinced that it is a valuable resource to help girls understand guys I pinged an email to some Christian friends to let them know about it. So far, so good, but over the last day I’ve realised that without its proper context my email seemed like a promotion of a set of rules that guys were demanding from girls. This might not seem like the biggest crisis since slided bread but I was concerned that the result could be guys blaming girls for our lust and girls being shackled with a grace-less list of rules.

I don’t really want to talk about me being an idiot, though, but as usual I want to talk about God! He’s used this to teach me how the gospel works out in the everyday things. As I’ve tried to think through and deal with this in a way that glorifies God I’ve had some unusual responses which come from the gospel. I can see clearly that God has been transforming my by his Spirit through his gospel to become more like his Son. The Spirit applies the gospel to us powerfully to save us, and then continues to apply the gospel powerfully to strengthen and equip us for lives of service. So, I’ve been thinking of a few ways in which the gospel has taught and enabled me to respond unusually to being an idiot.

Before I start, though, I want it to be clear that this isn’t a tribute to me. Very few of these were my first response and I know that none of them would have been my natural response if it weren’t for the power of the gospel. I want to reflect on how God’s been changing me and how I can better keep in step with the Spirit and not for a second think that I’m already there. God is gracious, though.

My instinct is to hide my failure from God, the gospel teaches me to come to him. On my best day I wouldn’t come close to deserving access to the throne of God if it weren’t for Jesus’ blood and on my worst day that grace more than covers me. The fact that I see my failure more clearly doesn’t mean that God does and doesn’t change my relationship to him. Hebrews 4:14-16.

My instinct is to be right, the gospel teaches me I’m wrong. Key to the gospel is accepting that from birth I’ve been completely and utterly wrong (in belief, behavior, morals, everything) and in this context the way I view having made a mistake changed. At first my response to gentle rebuke was self defense – “I was right – can’t you see?!” but as I thought about it I realised I had been wrong and became grateful to those who had expressed concern and encouraged me to do better. As Dave Bish says, the gospel gives us permission to fail (note, not permission to sin!) and I’m thankful to those who pointed out my error.

My instinct is to listen to myself, the gospel teaches me to talk to myself. This may sound a little odd, but it’s really helpful advice from CJ Mahaney’s book Living the Cross Centred Life. At first as I thought about things I was being passive – just listening to my varied thoughts and allowing myself to be self-pitying. Instead he urges taking control of what I’m thinking and preaching the gospel to myself – going back to the cross and applying it to my situation. Of course prayer is key here – without the Holy Spirit working through the gospel all the preaching in the world is to no avail.

My instinct is to rely on myself, the gospel teaches me to seek help and advice. God has graciously saved a people so I have plenty of support from Christians around me. Partly this came from teachers (one of Jesus’s gifts to the church in Ephesians 4) as I listened to CJ Mahaney’s message The Soul of Modesty which set everything firmly in the context of the gospel and gave me the opportunity to seek, evaluate and fight the legalism which had crept in without me noticing. It also came from friends, namely my housemate whose wise words were to leave any reply until the morning after I’d slept – truly the best idea of the evening!

My instinct is to panic, the gospel teaches me to trust God’s faithfulness. Fighting my desire to properly think through what the best response would be to my friends’ concerns was the fact that I wanted to act now! That way I could ‘save the day’ and solve the problem before anyone else found the problem. God’s sovereignty, though, tells me that he is in control and working for the best – taking the time to work out the best response (which, in this case, included a night’s sleep and an hour of listening to CJ Mahaney) wouldn’t mess up his plan.

My instinct is to trust what I think is right, the gospel teaches me to come to the Bible. Once I’d worked out what I thought was the right thing to do, I wanted to evalutate my motives and make sure they were right (that I was seeking to serve God and edify others rather than just trying to make people like me more) and was having difficulty. In the end the solution was to go to Scripture – 2 Timothy was where I went this time – to see what the right way to minister is. Once I’d checked my motives and methods against God’s word for discrepancies I was happy to go ahead.

My instinct is to dwell on my own failure, the gospel teaches me to praise God. Tempting as it was just to go over the last day in my head even after I’d dealt with it to the best of my ability it was a huge release to put it aside and turn to praising God. He is the same God, I have the same standing before him, and there is useful work for me to be doing. I’ve had a bad day, I’ll have worse, but thinking about God is so much more profitable and enjoyable.

So what now? Well, I’ve learned practically some of the ways to avoid being quite so silly next time and more importantly I’ve seen a bit more clearly how grace works out in life. Thank God! So there’s new ways for me to serve, new ways for me to mess up, new ways for me to realise I need grace, new ways to draw closer to God. Here I go…

Modesty Survey is out!

Wednesday February 14, 2007

UPDATE: please do read the petition attached to the survey before looking at the survey itself. It would be far too easy to see the results as another set of dos and don’ts rather than in the spirit it was intended. Looking a bit at the history of the survey, it was asked for by Christian girls with a desire for modesty who wanted to understand how guys’ minds work so is designed as a gift to make things clearer, not a bondage to legalism. I want to stand with those who created the survey in affirming our gratefulness to those who dress modestly and that this is only a resource, never a command. That said, do have a look around – I think it’s interesting!

 

TheRebelution.com just launched the results of their massive Modesty Survey! Over 1,600 Christian guys answered questions on everything from glitter lotion and lip gloss to swimsuits and skirt slits! For you girls, it’s everything you’ve ever wanted to ask guys about modesty, but were afraid to ask! For you guys, it’s really interesting to see what other Christian guys think!

 

Most importantly, the survey is presented as a resource to help Christian girls (and guys), not a list of legalistic rules, and it is accompanied by the Modesty Survey Petition (which tons of guys have signed) which encourage young women to focus on the heart, not the hemline, to honor their parents, etc.

 

TheRebelution.com presents the results of the survey as a big St. Valentine’s Day gift from 1,600 Christian guys to all Christian girls—and I can’t think of a better one!

 

Go check it out: www.therebelution.com/modestysurvey

 

But also make sure you spread the word to all your friends. We want as many Christian girls as possible to see it on Valentines Day, so you can repost this post on your blog or forward it as an email.

 

Guys, they are still accepting signatures for the Modesty Survey Petition, so this is an opportunity for you to still share your voice on the topic of modesty!

Share the wealth…

Friday February 9, 2007

It feels like ages since I’ve written anything. Maybe it is, maybe I just have amnesia. Who knows? In the meantime I’ve been loving enjoying and serving God, but look forward to having a chance to come back here and think as I write. Today isn’t the day, though. I just thought I’d share something here I just shared with the fam over at the Criddle Kitchen Table. Because I can’t come up with anything better the second time round, I’ll just have to resort to quoting myself!

Over at The Rebelution, Alex and Brett Harris have just finished a survey of around 1000 Christian guys on what forms of clothing are most/least helpful in our fight for sexual purity. It was requested by Christian girls and has always been based on grace rather than legalism but to ensure it is published and received in the right spirit they’re asking Christian guys (12+ so you’re both in!) to sign a petition affirming seven things about the way we want women to approach modesty. They’re doing a lot of great work over there, and if you want to join them I thought I’d give you the chance…

We are richly blessed (hence the bad pun in the title) to have many chances to serve one another and this is one of them – to let our sisters know how much we value modesty and how we desire grace for them above all.

For the girls – you can’t sign the petition (for, hopefully, obvious reasons) but the results of the survey will be out soon and available from The Rebelution.