Majestic

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Oh Lord, our Lord,

How majestic is your name in all the earth!

Psalm 8:9

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A Framework for Biblical Decision-Making

We each face many decisions in life, many are small and some are big. In most of these decisions, the Bible is clear about what we should do.

In some of them however, the right path to take might not be immediately obvious. It could be because we know the right thing to do deep down, but it’s hard, so we “wrestle” with it a bit. Or it could be because the situation is complex, involving a number of different Biblical principles.

I am in the midst of one such decision at the moment, where it is not clear what I should do. Below are some questions I am working through, as a kind of framework for Biblical decision-making. I haven’t gone through all these questions thoroughly yet (I’m taking my time with #6), but these are the kinds of things I’ve been thinking through (and talking through with my husband and friends) as I prepare to make a decision.

The Bible tells us that “[God’s] divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3) and that “if any of [us] lacks wisdom, [we] should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to [us]” (James 1:5).

We already have everything we need to live a godly life through the knowledge of God given to us in the Bible. And if we lack wisdom about how to understand and apply that knowledge, we only need to ask Him, and he will supply it!

That gives me great hope, even though I don’t yet have the all the answers about what to do. I trust that as I seek out God’s wisdom and dig deeper into the knowledge of Him, he will provide His wisdom to me.

 


The first two questions are already answered (with help from the children’s catechism) to help set the tone.

What is the purpose of your life? To glorify God and enjoy him forever.

How can you glorify God? By loving him and obeying him.

  1. How can you best love God in this situation?
  2. How can you best love the people involved in this situation?
  3. How can your decision promote the gospel of God’s grace to unbelievers?
  4. How can you best love and serve your brothers and sisters in Christ?
  5. Which sins (of either commission or omission) need to be avoided?
  6. Which Bible passages apply here and how?
  7. Is it a decision between right and wrong; between wise and foolish; or between two equally right and wise things?
  8. What might the consequences of either decision be? (This question might not apply to your situation if it’s a question of right or wrong. When it comes to obeying God, it is not for us to worry about the consequences. But in cases where either option would be obedient to Him, then it might be helpful to consider the consequences as you weigh your decision.)
  9. What are my feelings about this situation? How might they be deceiving me?

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A prayer for wisdom:

Dear Lord,

You are so good and so merciful. You have given me everything I need to live a godly life, through your divine power. You richly meet all my needs so that I am lacking nothing.

You can see all things and you know all things. You know the depths of everything that has happened here, even into the hearts of all people involved.

Lord, my desire is to bring you glory. I want nothing more than to lead others to know your name and to praise your name!

Please give me wisdom. Please open up your word to me so that I can grow in knowledge of you. I pray that you would give me to wisdom to see what would bring you the most glory in this situation.

I pray that you would help me to obey you, even when it’s hard. And I pray that you would help me to stand firm in my convictions.

May your name be glorified in all I do,

Amen.

 

A Year to be Thankful For

Another year draws to a close. Another set of milestones passed… 8 years married, our daughter has finished her first year of school.

This year was also really hard for us, in some very strange and unexpected ways.

I always think it’s interesting to compare my vision for the year as I look ahead (when I set goals and make plans) with the reality of the year that was. As much as I love to plan and dream and imagine what the year might look like, there are always things that catch me by surprise. There are always things that can’t be anticipated or planned for.

It really drives home the message of Proverbs 16:9:

In their hearts humans plan their course,
    but the Lord establishes their steps.

And even through all the difficult things that have happened this year, there is so much to be thankful for. So I decided to close out 2017 by making a list of all the things I am thankful to God for:

  • Another year of getting to stay home and look after these precious kids.
  • That my husband has a job which provides for us and means I can stay home with the kids.
  • My wonderful husband – all the ways he loves me, leads me and nurtures me in the Lord (could write a whole post about him, TBH 🙂 ).
  • The way God has grown my love for learning about Him and following Him more deeply this year.
  • Surviving my daughter’s first year of school (and my first year as a school mum!!).
  • My amazing friends who came through in such supportive and encouraging ways this year, through some really hard times.
  • My wonderful church and Bible study family who also supported our family through prayer, encouragement and practical support.
  • God’s mercy and grace to me – there are so many times this year when I have been aware of His mercy, of how he has actively held back worse things that could have happened!
  • God’s patience with me, even as I stumble and fall.
  • God’s provision and help in my first year as a MOPS coordinator, working through me despite all my self-doubt and lack of organisational ability.
  • For all the beauty surrounding me inside and outside of my house, for small pleasures like nice sunny days, rain when it’s needed, a quiet cup of tea before anyone else wakes up and falling into a soft, warm bed tangled up with someone I love each night.

It’s been a strange, beautiful, hard year. Here’s to the next one!

 

The Cure for Humiliation

How do you handle it when someone corrects you? How do you feel, knowing that they might think less of you?

Humiliation can sting, especially when it is caused by someone whose opinion we really value and respect.

I sometimes feel this way when my husband corrects some sin he sees in me (or even if he raises some sin he thinks he sees, but is ultimately false). There is the pain that comes from “I want you to like me” and “I don’t want you to see those ugly parts”.

The “sting” is how it feels when my pride is wounded. When I think of myself a certain way or I want to portray myself a certain way, and then I am lowered from that position by someone’s words or actions.

Humiliation is “the abasement of pride, which creates mortification or leads to a state of being humbled or reduced to lowliness or submission.” (Wikipedia)

One of the joys of marriage has been learning to embrace the kind of vulnerability that comes with being deeply known and seen – the good parts and the bad. The joy comes from knowing that my husband sees it all, and loves me anyway.

But I know that he can never see right down to the depths of my heart, like God can. And so there is always still that sting when he uncovers something I really didn’t want him to see.

Before God, there can be no humiliation. There can be no “lowering” of myself before him, because He already sees it all, and when I am in Christ, He already paid for it all!

Before God, my position is already as low as it can ever go. He can never learn or uncover something about me that will make Him think less of me.


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I recently watched a segment of a sermon by David Platt (on Psalm 67) that really impacted me, about whether the point of Christianity is “God loves me” or something else…. Let me quote some of it for you:

If “God loves me” is the essence of Christianity, then who is the object of Christianity? God loves… me. Therefore, Christianity is about me.

When I come to church, it’s about me. It’s about the music that fits my preferences. It’s about my life, and my plans, and my dreams, and my family. It’s about my portfolio, and my comfort-ability. What I think is best for my life.

But what I want to say to you, based on the authority of God’s word, is that “God loves me” is not the essence of Christianity.

Biblical Christianity does not say “God loves me”, put a period on it and go home. Biblical Christianity says that God loves me so that His grace, His way, His Salvation, His power, His glory might be made known in all nations. Now who’s the object of Christianity? God is.

Everything centres around him. Christianity is not ultimately about us, it’s about Him, and Him being made known in all the nations.

This is so helpful for me to remember, that the point of Christianity – the whole reason God saves me or anyone – is to bring glory and honour to His name.

The purpose is not to lift me up or honour me or make me look great.

It’s to bring glory to God’s name.

And this is the cure for humiliation.

To remember our place before God. To lift up his name, not our own. And to find our joy in seeing him glorified.

When I feel the sting of humiliation – the pain of my wounded pride – I don’t need to worry about defending myself or trying to lift myself up again. The only thing that matters is that God is lifted up.

 

Not to us, Lord, not to us
    but to your name be the glory,
    because of your love and faithfulness.

Psalm 115:1

In the Beginning There Was Grace (Part 1)

Some people talk about God as though he is two different “characters” in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. For example, “the vengeful and harsh God of the Old Testament” versus “the loving and forgiving God of the New Testament.”

But the Bible tells us that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

As I’ve been reading and studying through the book of Genesis recently, one thing that consistently strikes me is God’s incredible grace and mercy!

So I’ve decided to create a list here of all the examples of God’s grace and mercy I’ve encountered in Genesis (so far). I hope this list will be an encouragement to you as you get to (or start to) know God’s character more.

Here are the definitions of each that I use, as I know these words can have different  connotations.

Grace: unmerited/undeserved favour

Mercy: divine favour or compassion

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Bible Study Barbie starter kit 😛


  • God makes man and woman in His image and likeness. Being made in God’s image is an amazing blessing and honour, and there is nothing they (or we) did to deserve or earn that – they didn’t even exist yet when God made that decision! Genesis 1:26-27
  • God blesses the man and woman and gives them a purpose – have babies, fill the earth and rule over it. Giving Adam and Eve a specific purpose and direction in life was a gift to them. They didn’t have to wonder about their reason for being – God told them clearly. Genesis 1:28
  • God provides food for the people He made – it literally grows on trees, they don’t have to do anything! Genesis 1:29
  • This food is “pleasing to the eye” and nutritious. Genesis 2:9
  • God gives Adam a rule about one tree he may not eat from – this is for Adam’s protection (the alternative would be not telling Adam that eating from this tree would cause him to die – giving him no warning at all.) Genesis 2:17
  • God sees that it is not good for the man to be alone, so he makes a helper who is suitable for him. This is not something Adam earned or deserved because he was such a great guy – this was purely God’s gracious gift to Adam, in meeting a need that God saw he had. Genesis 2:18
  • When God goes to take one of Adam’s ribs, with which he forms Eve, he first causes Adam to “fall into a deep sleep” – this is an act of mercy to spare Adam of the pain it would have caused. Genesis 2:21
  • When Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, although death would indeed be the consequence, God showed them grace and mercy in allowing them not to die immediately, but to continue on in their mission to “be fruitful and multiply”. Genesis 3:6
  • Even though Adam and Eve have just sinned against God for the first time – rebelling against his good authority and rule – He pursues them; He calls to them. He is the offended party, and yet God is the one to reach out and seek the offenders. Such love and grace! Genesis 3:9
  • Even as God is dishing out the consequences to all the guilty parties, there is still amazing grace given to them. The woman will have pain in childbearing, but she will still go on to bear children! (Genesis 3:16) The man will have endure painful toil in order to eat, but he will still yield food! (Genesis 3:17-19)
  • God makes garments from animal skins for Adam and Eve, more permanent and warm than the leaves they had quickly gathered to cover themselves. Genesis 3:21

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This is part 1 in a series I hope to continue soon, with all the examples of God’s grace and mercy throughout the book of Genesis.
It’s my hope that this inspires you to open your Bible and get to know and love God more each day.

Friends, He is so good!

 

Thank You, Lord, That I am Not Like This Paedophile

Every time a news story breaks about a new case of child sexual abuse or a child porn user, a slew of people rush to the comments section to declare their thoughts about the criminal.

“Scum of the earth…”

“Bring back the death penalty…”

“Let him stay with the general population in prison, see how he likes that…”

In one sense, I can relate. Nothing sickens me more than the thought of people hurting and abusing children, especially since I’ve had kids of my own. At times, I’ve read details of these horrific cases and felt a burst of rage, and contemplated what justice might look like for that person.

 

Justice.

We all want justice, don’t we?

We all want to see these vile offenders pay for the wrong they have done and the harm they have caused.

So we put ourselves firmly in the seat of Judge, and we mete out what we would consider Justice. I have to laugh at the incongruity here, given one of the maxims of our day is “don’t judge”…

“Don’t judge” – unless the person you’re judging is a paedophile.

“Don’t judge” – unless it’s someone who is clearly way worse than you.

“Don’t judge” – unless it’s publicly acceptable to do so.

 

Do you think you’re better than a paedophile?

That’s not a trick question.

Are you a better person than a paedophile?

 

Have a read of what Jesus has to say in Luke 18:9-14:

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Don’t trust in yourself that you are righteous. Fall on your knees before God.

Ask for His mercy.

Because He can see inside your heart, and He knows you aren’t righteous.

He saw every time you lied. Every time you kindled the fire of hatred against another human being. Every time you lashed out in anger, whether with words or with hands. Every time you ignored Him. Every time you put someone else before Him. Every time you satisfied your lust. Every time you put desire for things above love for people. Every time you clamoured to get more than you need. Every time you deliberately deceived someone.

There is no one righteous, not even one.

Step out of the Judge’s seat, and onto the floor with the sinners.

I promise there is enough mercy to go around.

 

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Where Does Your Help Come From?

I love to look at the mountains. Something about them has always inspired a deep sense of awe in me, so much so that I often audibly gasp when I’m watching a beautiful sunrise out our kitchen window, or driving down the hill into the valley where we live, looking out on the majestic range to the west.

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Sunrise out my kitchen window – never gets old!

And whenever I look out on these mountains, I’m reminded of Psalm 121. Verse 1 says:

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?

I used to think that David (the Psalm’s author) must have felt the way I do about mountains. That he must also have found them awe-inspiring and breath-taking.

When this verse sprang to my mind, I imagined that David was looking to the mountains as a way to inspire hope, or to boost his morale.

But when we read the rest of the Psalm, that’s not at all what the reference to “mountains” is about…

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

David does not find his encouragement and confidence in the mountains. He is not spurred on by a vague sense of awe and wonder.

No, he is looking to the mountains and not finding his help there. His help comes from God – the one who actually made the mountains!

It’s as if he’s saying, “I looked to the vast and wonderful mountains, but they did nothing to help me. No, my help actually came from God – the One who is bigger than the mountains, the earth and the sky… the One who was powerful and big enough to make them all!”

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I’ll always be a mountain-watcher (and climber!). But I know that the awe I feel when I look at them is nothing compared to the awe I will feel when I stand face to face with God one day. I know that the joy and they wonder they stir up in me, is really joy and wonder at the the beauty and magnitude of God’s creation. And I know that as great as this natural world can be – with it’s mountains, valleys and rich diversity – it all pales in comparison to the greatness and power of the One who made them.

So, with David, I too can say, “I lifted my eyes to the mountains… my help comes from God, the Maker of heaven and earth”.

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This is a poem I wrote last year when I was struggling with my milk supply, among other breastfeeding issues. There’s nothing quite like the torment of being your baby’s only source of nutrition and not being able to provide that! (Yes, I did try formula – several times. He wouldn’t take it.)

I wrote this poem as I reflected on the spiritual dimension of my struggles. I wasn’t ready to share back when I wrote it because it was all too sensitive. I was thinking about trying to finish it, to give more “resolution”. But I’ve decided to leave it as is. Because we don’t always get answers to prayer immediately. And sometimes there are periods of really wrestling with faith, and no resolution in sight.


 

His furious face nuzzles my breast,

Searching

Searching

But

Finding not.

Dried up,

My hope is

Gone.

Father, where are you?

Where streams of living

Milk

Once flowed

Now only soft barrenness remains. 

I see you little one,

How I long to fill you,

To see you satisfied,

But there you remain,

Empty,

Mad,

We are exhausted.

I send up desperate cries,

Searching,

Searching for faith but

Finding  not.

Longing to be filled –

My breasts and my heart –

But remaining empty.

 

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One Word for the Year: Discipline

I’ve been putting off writing this post. Because there is a certain amount of accountability that comes with writing things down.

I like to make goals at the start of every year, and usually I do this is a very planned-out, specific way. (You can read more about that method here: http://mops.org.au/archives/5463)

Last year, I anticipated my time would be filled up with caring for our existing little ones, and the one who was going to join the family. So I purposefully set the bar a bit lower for myself in my goals. I mean, they were certainly still a challenge, but rather than “aiming high”, I aimed lower, with simple goals that I felt I could handle. For example, in the area of “homemaking”, instead of writing something like “Get the whole house organised”, I wrote “Consistently stay on top of the dishes, laundry and cooking.” In the area of “marriage”, instead of writing “go on a date every week”, I wrote “pray for my husband every day”.

As I began to reflect on the year 2016, I realised that I hadn’t even managed to keep my goals, even with the bar as a low as it was. And I wondered – what do you do with goals you didn’t keep? Do I just discard them, and start again, focusing on all new things? Or do I write down the same goals, acknowledging that I have made progress, and working to continue that progress?

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My pretty 2017 planner

Well, there are many different methods for goal-setting and yearly planning. And one I’ve read a bit about in other years is the idea of picking your “one word” focus for the year. Some people simply pick one word, others pick one word and use that as the basis for more specific goals.

And as I started to think about this idea more – the idea of “one word” – and talk about it with my Mum and husband, I found answers to my questions.

The thing is, I know what I need to do – in parenting, in marriage, in homemaking, etc. Of course, there are always ways I need to grow and things to learn. And the kids are always growing up and into new stages.

But where we are, right now, I know what I need to do. I just struggle in the actually doing it.

And that’s how I got to my one word for 2017: Discipline.

I want to have more discipline in my prayer life, in Bible reading, in craft projects, in reading books, in disciplining the kids, in my housework, etc.

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Climbing rocks when pregnant… don’t try this at home, kids.

I need discipline to get up and spend time with the Lord at the start of each day (or later in the day when it just doesn’t happen). I need discipline to consistently read the Bible.

I need discipline to love my husband well sometimes, to meet his needs not only when it’s fun and easy to do, but also when doing so requires a sacrifice on my part.

 

I need discipline in my relationship with my kids, to discipline them properly and make the most of each opportunity I have – it’s all too easy to let things slide because “I just sat down” or I just started doing something in another room. But the work of motherhood is largely the day in, day out, laying the foundations of character and applying the Bible to their little lives.

I need discipline to eat good, nutritious foods and to exercise regularly. (As an aside here, my husband bought me a Fitbit for Christmas and it has been a great motivator! I used to think, “I’m really active, I bet I’ll log heaps of steps each day!” Nope! I’m no where near as active as I thought, so that has been a great wakeup call.)

I need discipline to finish what I start, to do things well and to not overcommit.

My Bible verse for the year is 2 Timothy 1:7:

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

This is a great verse for me, because it reminds me that self-discipline is not something that I can just will myself into. It’s something that comes from God.

It is a fruit of the Spirit in the life of the Christian, therefore, I need to rely on the Spirit to develop and hone this characteristic in my life.

Honestly, I need that reminder. Because for all my list-loving and plan-making, I can tend to think that I’m the one to create change in my life… That I can be more disciplined if I just try harder.

But what I’m finding, even less than a month into this year, is that developing self-discipline takes complete dependence on God through prayer.

 

Practically speaking, I’m also choosing to focus on one “discipline” at a time. For January, this is reading the Bible and praying daily again.

I’ve also enjoyed printing off and hanging up this “Daily Disciplines for Homemakers” sheet from Young Wife’s Guide: https://youngwifesguide.com/getting-track-daily-disciplines/
I find it helpful seeing on paper what I want to get done every day, like, read the Bible, pray, read books with the kids, do the dishes, etc. For some people, these things might seem obvious and you wouldn’t need reminders, but for me… well, I really do need the reminders!


 

What are your goals for this year? Is there “one word” that captures what your focus is for 2017?

What’s Your Default?

I’m a huge fan of learning from other women, particularly when it comes to practical stuff like child-rearing and home-making. I’m sure most of the good ideas I use daily came from watching and learning!

So I was delighted to read this blog post by Jess Connell recently, called Here’s What I Learned Watching my Friend be ‘Busy at Home’. She talks about several tips she picked up by observing her friend.

Here’s the one that stood out to me:

#7- CHOOSE TO HAVE A DEFAULT POSTURE OF BUSYNESS, NOT IDLENESS

I noticed throughout the week that her default “position” was at the kitchen sink. This may be the most important of all… not that we all stand around in our kitchens all day… but that her position was one that put her in a ready position to field meals, cleaning, and the family calendar. Did you ever play baseball or softball? “Get into position!” meant to hustle to the spot where you would be most advantageously used for the position you were playing. THAT is what I saw in my friend Kelly. She was “in position” for much of the day, doing dishes, preparing treats for her gluten-free son, checking out the calendar to be ready for what was coming, browsing a cookbook for something tasty that night, etc. Her default position was one of busyness, not idleness.

I found it particularly challenging because if I think about it, my default “position” throughout the day is probably sitting at my laptop, reading news or current affairs sites. Sure, I do plenty of other things, but that’s where I bounce back to in between activities. And it’s a default position of idleness, for sure.

Since I read this last week, I’ve been actively trying to change my default to one of busyness. Like the mum mentioned in Jess’s article, the kitchen is probably a good central place for me to default to. It’s where my planner lives, and there is always something I can do there – dishes to wash, food to prepare, floor to sweep. So I’ve been making more of an effort to head back to the kitchen when I seem to have a spare moment, or when I’m not sure what to do next. There, I either just start doing something or check in with my planner to find out what I should do next (I usually mentally divide tasks into things that can be done with “kids awake” or “kids asleep”).

The results are that I’m getting a lot more done! (Surprise!) And I don’t have as much of the restless “I should be doing something, but I don’t know what” feeling.

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My kitchen doesn’t always look like this, but when it does, I take a picture!

But I’ve been thinking about this concept of our “default”, and I think it applies beyond just busyness/idleness.

Here are some other questions I’ve been thinking through:

  • Is my default demeanour one of cheerfulness and laughter, or sombreness and sighs? (Remember, we’re talking about what our default mindset is, not our constant mindset!) I remember once I sighed and my daughter asked me, “Mummy, why did you say *sigh*?” I hadn’t done so consciously, so it was a good reminder that my children are watching how I carry myself, and that they pick up so much from the unspoken things. Sometimes I remind myself to put the smile back on my face as I finish something more serious, like disciplining a child or concentrating on a physical task. I’m not talking about fake-smiling (plastering on a smile to mask real feelings of despair) – but I often find that when I consciously put a smile on my face, I feel more happy (or maybe I remember that I am happy). Another method I use to reset the mood is bursting out in song or making a loud, silly noise (I have preschoolers – they think I’m hilarious).

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Proverbs 17:22

  • When I face hard circumstances, do I default to worrying and fretting, or do I take my concerns to God in prayer? This is one the Lord has really been impressing upon my heart lately – just how much worry is a waste of time. Sometimes I will spend half a day worrying about something, going over scenarios in my head, trying to think of ways to fix it but coming up short, which leads to more worry. Then I remember to pray. And I put my concerns in God’s hands and walk away from it. And I breathe easy. And I wonder why it took me so long to do, realising that I just wasted a whole morning’s worth of thoughts. God wants us to bring our concerns to him – he has the power to take away our anxiety and also to fix what is troubling us (even if that doesn’t always look how we imagined). If we truly believe this, we should work to make our default response one of prayer.

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Matthew 6:27

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

1 Peter 5:7

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I’d love to hear your thoughts – what do you default to?

Idleness or busyness?

Cheerfulness or sombreness?

Worry or prayer?