Never Alone

We sung this song at church today and I just love it. There’s something so great about singing gospel truth out loud!

 

We’re not alone, for Christ is here

Immanuel our God come near

We’re not alone, for to our world

Jesus has come, eternal Word.

And as he speaks, our souls laid bare

Naked, ashamed, sin is made clear

And yet he clothes us in his love

Never alone, Christ is with us, is with us.

 

The longest walk, earth’s darkest day

The pressing crowd, his mounting pain.

A heavy load of grief and shame

Breathless that we should breathe again.

“Father forgive them,” comes his cry

Silence from God blackens the sky.

A creeping dread in every heart

Lost in the world now God departs, God departs.

 

The dawn will come, the sun will rise

Out of the grave we’ll see hope’s light.

Tomb opened wide, stone rolled away

Morning has come, a brand new day.

“He isn’t here,” the angel said.

“He is alive no longer dead.”

Our hearts are lifted, souls raised high

Christ is with us, Christ is our life, he’s our life.

 

Never alone, is now our cry

In joy, in grief, in lonely sin.

Never alone, for Christ is ours

He lives in us, we live in him.

And ’til we reach that final day

When fears are gone, cast far away

We’ll live secure, trust in his love,

Never alone, Christ is with us, he’s with us.

 

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From Emu Music

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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.

 

Singing Together

One of my favourite parts of church is the corporate worship. (That’s a fancy church word for when we sing to God as a group.)

I love hearing all the different voices come together. I love hearing the little kids who are learning to read try to sing along. I love my view from the back of the church – I can see who are the “boppers”, the “swayers”, the “finger tappers” and the “statues” (we’re Presbyterian – we have a lot of “statues” 😉 ).

But most of all, I love the way singing together is a collective expression of our faith and trust in God.

This came to mind at church yesterday when we sang these words, from “Blessed Be Your Name”:

Blessed be Your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s ‘all as it should be’
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name
Every blessing You pour out I’ll
Turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name, oh
As I sang, I looked around the church, at the Church – the body of Christ.
I thought about all the trials I know people are going through. I thought about the struggles and the pain. And I thought about all the abundance and joy others are experiencing.
And I thought – how amazing is it to join with these people and reaffirm to each other, as our voices join together, that we all just want to praise God’s name and bring him glory. Through all of our different lives, we come together to praise God and trust in him together.
It’s a taste of what heaven will be like – when all God’s people (I mean ALLLLLL God’s people – from past, present and future!) will be joined together for the sole purpose of worshipping the Lord.
Wow! I can hardly wait!
Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 5:18-19
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Welcome to the Dust Museum!

One morning recently, my daughter came out of her room and noticed the brilliant warm sunshine streaming in through the kitchen window.

As she walked past, her eyes caught the little dust particles – stirred by the morning movement – floating through the sunlight and almost dancing in the air.

With the pure joy and candour of a five-year-old, she twirled around with her arms out and said, “Welcome to the dust museum!”

I stifled my laughter around the corner.

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Seriously considering getting this cross-stitched to hang up in my house…

It was a really funny and beautiful moment, seeing her perspective on things. That we have enough dust to constitute a museum. That dust is something worth being displayed. That you can enjoy beauty wherever you find it, even when it appears in unconventional ways.

But it also made me think bigger picture – that really, we are all living in a dust museum! That is, all these things we gather around ourselves that gather dust on themselves will one day pass away. Naked we came into the world, and naked we will leave it. We can’t take our things with us.

I think that’s a helpful reminder.

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And then there’s our earthly bodies, themselves little “dust museums” – from dust we came, and to dust we will return. As these bodies age and break down and get tired, it’s a reminder that we are returning to dust.

And a reminder not to spend too much time “dusting” ourselves off, because death is the fate that awaits everyone. What a shame it would be to spend your whole life toning and honing and working on a body that is just going to go in the ground and turn back into dust one day.

Let’s not neglect to focus on the eternal things – our relationship with God. Where will you go when you die? Where will you be when you leave behind the dust of this world – when your earthly body and all the things you gathered around you are broken and shattered in the ground?

The amazing hope of Jesus is that all who trust in him will be raised from the dead to live with him forever one day. And that promise is solid – it won’t turn back to dust.

 

Welcome to the dust museum.

We hope you enjoy your visit!

Like a Child

Today we were driving to the shops, and my daughter said, “Oh no! Someone left their Old McDonald’s wrapper ON THE GROUND!”

“That’s not good, is it, honey? People should pick up their rubbish,” I said.

“I know!” she said immediately. “We could have a garbage hunt!”

And so – when the weather improves – we plan on having a garbage hunt. Walking around our neighbourhood with a garbage bag, picking up all the rubbish we find.

I don’t know if this is something they’ve done at school before, but I’m fairly certain her teacher has talked to her class about the environmental impacts of leaving your rubbish lying around. She has come home from school before talking to me about how rubbish that washes into the water ways can cause fish to choke and die.

And just the other day we were walking back to the car and she stopped to pick up someone’s empty juice popper “so we can put it in the bin at home”.

For her, it is so simple… Rubbish pollutes the world, so we should pick up rubbish and put it in the bin.

Belief = action.

We call this integrity, when a persons actions match their beliefs.

But I don’t think it’s so simple for adults.

We know that littering is bad for the environment, yet most of us would quite happily walk past someone else’s rubbish because we don’t want to touch it or be seen touching it or it’s not our fault.

Our actions don’t match our beliefs.


 

The other day, while I was having an internal ultrasound, I had the opportunity to explain the gospel to a stranger – the ultrasound technician (now, don’t tell me you find it uncomfortable to talk about your faith…).

He asked what the difference between Catholics and Protestants was, and I proceeded to explain that the main difference is that Protestants believe that the only way to be saved is by having faith in God, not your own good works.

This is the good news of the gospel – that salvation is a gift, from start to finish, and there is nothing we can do to contribute to that.

It’s very good news, but it does cause problems with our human nature.

Because some of us hear that and think, Great! I will just trust in Jesus and then get on with my life, doing whatever I please, because I am saved anyway!

This is why James needed to write in the Bible:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Yes, faith in God is all we need to be saved. James is not arguing that our good deeds somehow contribute to our salvation, like an add-on to faith. Rather, he is saying that deeds are the evidence of faith.
We can’t say that we have real faith – a living faith – if we don’t act on it.

 

If we say we believe that Jesus is the Lord and the only way to God, but we don’t worship him, our faith is dead.

If we say we believe that only those who trust in Jesus will go to heaven and everyone else will go to hell, but we don’t tell people about Him, our faith is dead.

If we say we believe that living life God’s way is best, but we don’t obey him, our faith is dead.

Faith without action is nothing.

In fact, it’s worse than nothing – it’s hypocrisy.

 

Maybe we have something to learn from children here.

They have no gap between their beliefs and their actions.

Let’s have a real, live faith.

A child-like faith.

A faith that cannot help but act.

 

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Because He Cares…

I wrote a note on my Facebook page the other day as I reflected on the recent Grenfell Tower Fire. My reflection was that the truly terrifying thing about the whole situation was the apathy from those in charge of the tower when concerns had been raised about the safety of the building in the months leading up to the fire.

The residents of that tower were in the vulnerable position of living in a building that wasn’t safe, and their vulnerability and need was met with a lack of care from those who had the power to solve the problem.

And as I watched the tower go up in flames (along with the rest of the world), I felt so upset for those people trapped in the tower. All those people who died because no one cared enough to really listen to them and make the required changes.

It’s a very deep kind of pain you feel when you reach out with your worries or fears, only to be met with silence or to be fobbed off – especially by those who are meant to care for you.

You might not be living in a dangerous situation at the mercy of some corporate body, but perhaps you’ve felt this way before with a parent or friend… Perhaps you have felt the sting of disappointment when someone you thought would care, didn’t.

This morning as I thought over these things, 1 Peter 5:7 came to mind:

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

I was really struck by how amazing it is that God actually cares for us and how this should lead us to pray to Him honestly.

Prayer is not some kind of venting ritual, where we get things off our chest and that process makes us feel better.

It’s actually giving our burdens to a real Person, who has real power.

It’s throwing all our worries and fears in front of God, because He cares for us.

That changes everything.

It means we always have someone to turn to with our anxieties and concerns. Someone who will not minimise our feelings or fob us off for something more important.

Of course, God will not always answer in the way we want or expect. But He always hears and He always answers.

When you bring your burdens to God, you will never experience the pain of apathy.

Cast all your anxiety on Him, friends – because He truly does care for you!

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Going to Church with Little Kids

Strategies and suggestions to help things go more smoothly.


Before we had kids, my experience of church was involved, but fairly laid back. We would arrive 5-10 beforehand, chat to some friends and then find a pew somewhere around the middle to front region. When it came time to sing, we would stand and sing. And when it was time for the sermon, we would sit and listen. I always enjoyed taking notes – writing down verse references to look up later or phrases that stood out to me. Or even having a good old doodle to keep my mind from wandering. Then, when the service finished, we would turn around and have a chat to whoever was in the pew behind us or catch some friends. All before leaving when we were good and ready.

Ahhh.

Don’t you feel so relaxed reading that?

Because going to church after you have kids is a little different…

Now, we tend to arrive on time (yay!) or 5-10 minutes late (better late than never, so… yay!). We find a seat towards the back of the hall, in order to minimise disruptions to everyone else during one of the 50 million times we will get out of our seats. During songs, we spend about half the time singing the words, and half the time whispering to an inquisitive child what the song is about or telling a child to face the front or disseminating snacks. The two older kids go out to Kids Church during the sermon, but we keep the baby in with us and let him crawl around in the general area in front of our seats. I’m lucky if I can hear an entire sermon these days, let alone process what has been said. And how long we stay at the end of church is determined by the battery life, I mean tiredness, of the youngest members of our family.

So if you’re in a place where going to church just seems too hard or you’re thinking about giving it up, let me encourage you to keep going! Keep trying!

And maybe some of these practical tips will help you out… (And please add your own helpful tips if you’ve “been there, done that”!)

 

Babies

  • When you arrive at a new church or before your baby arrives at your current church, take a moment to suss out a place where you can change a nappy and a place where you can go if the baby gets too loud. Ask the person at the front door if you can’t find somewhere suitable. It’s best to find these places at the start, otherwise when your baby starts crying in the middle of the service, you might get flustered and just leave!
  • When breastfeeding, I prefer to sit at the back of the church. I find that people can’t see much from the front of me, but they might “catch a glimpse” if they are sitting behind and to the side. So sitting right at the back of the church provides the most comfortable place for me to feed. (Our old church – pictured below – had two big red lounges at the back of the church specifically for nursing mothers. It was fantastic!)
  • When our babies were little, we always tried to line up one of their naps to be during the service. We would either put them down to nap in the pram or with one of us using the baby carrier. This often involved one of us going outside or into the hallway until the baby fell asleep. Sometimes this worked well, other times they would either not fall asleep at all or they would fall asleep, but wake up immediately upon entering the church hall again. Which leads me to the next point…
  • Have a plan, but be prepared to go with the flow. Babies often run on their own schedule (and sometimes that lines up with ours). It’s okay for them to miss the odd nap (provided they don’t just scream until the next nap). It’s okay for them to have a shorter nap than usual on one day of the week so that you can make it to church. Our kids never napped for longer than about 30 minutes in the pram or carrier, so we just accepted that they would need the next nap to be a bit sooner.
  • Don’t feel like you need to rush out of the church hall every time your baby makes a noise. There are happy noises and there are not so happy noises, and both of these can be equally disruptive to the church service. We tend to wait a minute or two to see if the baby settles down, and if they keep being loud, one of us will take the baby into the back room (where Kids Church meets) or into the hallway to the side of the church. We have just accepted that we will miss parts of the church service for the time being. It’s just a season – not forever.

 

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What screaming baby? I can’t hear any screaming baby…

Toddlers and Preschoolers

I’m lumping these two together because there is a fair bit of over lap.

  • Scout out the location of the toilets and somewhere you can take the child for “time out” if they need it. Like I mentioned with babies, it’s best to find these locations before you sit down so you know exactly where to go, should the need arise.
  • Bring snacks. We still bring snacks for our 5 year old, but I’m sure that will stop some time over the next year. I pack a little bag of things like crackers, raisins and nuts and give them to the kids right at the start of church. Morning tea is provided at the end of the service, but that’s too long for them to wait when they have eaten breakfast at 7-7.30, and church starts at 10. (Actually, bringing snacks applies for older babies too!)
  • Explain to them what is happening and your expectations. It might seem like they don’t understand, but they will eventually. Use simple phrases like, “Now we are talking to God. We close our eyes to help us concentrate”, “Now we’re singing a song about God – we read the words from the screen” and “Now it’s time to be quiet and listen to the person speaking at the front”. Over time and with consistency, they will learn what happens in church and how they should behave. (But it won’t be instant!)
  • In the school holidays, when the Kids Church program takes a break, our church hands out colouring sheets and pencils for all the kids to do during the sermon. We also bring along a sticker book each for the older kids, as we find this helps them to stay quieter during the sermon. It might mean we don’t actually hear much – we are busy holding the book steady and peeling off stickers and finding the right page for them to go on, but this is more for the benefit of others around us – so they can hear the sermon.

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Some Bible verses for reflection

“Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”” Matthew 19:14

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.Hebrews 10:24-25

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:21-27


 

What strategies have worked for you? What hasn’t worked? I’d love to hear from you!

The Danger of Discipline

As the middle of the year draws closer, I’ve been reflecting on my goals and my focus for the year. This year I decided to make goals with a focus on one “theme word” – discipline.

And it has turned out to be a highly relevant word for me this year.

When each of my babies have turned one, I’ve found life enters a new stage. A more predictable, rhythmic stage.

The other day I got house work done for about 20 minutes while T crawled around the house, finding things to play with.

That is quite a feat, let me tell you! And it’s quite different to the newborn stage, where you can’t really put them down and every minute is sucked into a vortex of activity.

I mean, a mobile baby brings a different kind of busy. I’m cleaning up more messes, for example, since he loves “pulling things out” but not so much “packing things away”.

The other day I sent my husband this picture (of his side of the bed), with the message “This was the cost of doing the dishes today” (baby T completely emptied his bin and pulled down half his vitamins in the time it took me to wash a small load of dishes!):

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Mmm, tasty bin tissues – good for the immune system, right?

(I did then clean it up, but I often like to share little things from my day with my husband while he is at work – the good, the bad and the hilarious!)

But as I enter this season of having a baby who is more able to entertain himself for little chunks of time, it is a season that requires greater discipline because there is a temptation to slack off.

And what I am finding as I work to apply discipline across the various areas of my life is that discipline breeds discipline. It is addictive.

I guess you could call it “habit-forming”, which in the early stages requires repetition and consistency.

I’m particularly enjoying the fruits of applying discipline to my eating habits and exercise. The result is that I have more energy, I feel good and I am actually looking forward to exercising.

Some days I have to push myself to make it happen, or pull myself away from bad food choices (that’s the discipline part). But most days, it’s not a hard choice. The more I eat healthy food, the more my body craves it. The more I exercise, the more my body wants to move.

I find this to be the case across the other areas of my life where I am becoming more disciplined as well.

But then the thoughts start to creep in… “Hey, I’m really nailing this!”, “Wow, I’m really good at this discipline thing!” or the more subtle, “My hard work is starting to pay off.”

The problem with these thoughts is that they are rooted in pride.

The more my thoughts turn towards how well I am doing, the more they turn away from how dependent I am on God’s grace.

You might think, “Well, if you’re doing well on your own, why can’t you acknowledge that? Maybe that means you aren’t dependent on God’s grace?”

And that might be true for a while. I might have a good run in being disciplined and making good choices, and seeing results, but ultimately my own strength and personal resolve will fail.

It would be like saying, “Wow, that’s a beautiful rose! It’s doing such a great job of growing and looking lovely!” while ignoring the whole bush, roots, soil and sun that all worked to make the rose beautiful.

My dependence on God is the reality. My personal discipline is the result.

To believe that I can get the result of discipline without the reality that I am dependent on God is to believe a lie.

Ultimately, this is the danger of discipline – that we set up good habits for ourselves and it fools us into thinking that we can achieve anything in our own strength, that we are pretty good people and we don’t really need God.

Colossians 2:20-23 warns about these dangers:

Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

 

I am speaking here about self-discipline, of course. But I think this also applies to disciplining our kids.

Of course kids need to be taught obedience and morals.

But we need to be so careful that in teaching them to do what is right and flee from what is wrong, we don’t set them up to pridefully think they are good people.

I was raised in a loving Christian family, and I was taught how to obey God from a very young age. But unfortunately, this also grew a heart of pride in me.

Even when I copped grief from other kids at school and I didn’t quite fit in, I held onto this attitude that at least I was doing the right thing.

And don’t get me wrong – it’s good to love doing what is right!

Psalm 119:97 says:

Oh how I love your law!
    It is my meditation all the day.

But following God’s law won’t save you.

And when I was a child, I never really had a sense that I needed to be saved. I knew the rules. I followed the rules. And I thought that made everything okay.

(I mean, I knew Jesus had saved me – I just didn’t think I really needed it.)

It wasn’t until some events in my late teens that I truly realised how much I needed grace, and that I really couldn’t make it to heaven on my own (I might tell you the long story of that another day!).

This is an ongoing struggle for me. The struggle of falling back into rule-following and a prideful heart.

So even as I pursue greater discipline in my life, I need to be ever-mindful that it is only through God’s grace that I can make lasting changes. And it is only through God’s grace that I am saved.

It’s a change in posture from a standing tall, “you go girl” kind of self-discipline to a kneeling down, “God, please change my heart” kind of self-discipline.

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Our olive harvest the other day.

 

 

 

He would have left me by now…

… if our marriage was based on how well we keep our vows.

I was thinking the other day about some of the things we promised each other on our wedding day, so I went and looked them up:

I, Blake, before God, family and friends receive you, Jessica, as my wife.

I promise to faithfully love and cherish you, to nurture you spiritually and provide for you, for better or for worse, in plenty and in want, in sickness and in health, loving you sacrificially as Christ loves the Church.

I promise to be united with you in serving God, our family and others as long as we both shall live.

I will not depend on my own thoughts and emotions, but will ask for God’s help in fulfilling these promises each and every day.

 

I, Jessica, before God, family and friends receive you, Blake, as my husband.

I promise to faithfully love and respect you, to strengthen you spiritually and care for you, for better or for worse, in plenty and in want, in sickness and in health, submitting to you joyfully as the Church submits to Christ.

I promise to be united with you in serving God, our family and others as long as we both shall live.

I will not depend on my own thoughts and emotions, but will ask for God’s help in fulfilling these promises each and every day.

Yes, there’s no way either of us have kept those promises perfectly in our marriage.

I still remember when we wrote them together during our engagement –  sitting in that darkened Thai restaurant, hashing out exactly what we wanted our marriage to be about.

It’s hard, when you’re young and idealistic, to know all the twists and turns that you will encounter along the journey of marriage. But maybe that’s a good thing. Because if we knew, would we want to promise these things at all?

If we knew about chronic illnesses that can turn your beloved into a shell of a person for years on end, would we promise to stay with them in sickness and in health?

If we knew about the times when a husband’s requests seem impossible, would we promise to submit to them?

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Maybe someone more cynical would think – why even write vows if you aren’t going to stick to them?

And I wonder if that’s what the many young people who are shunning marriage these days are thinking – that they don’t want to make promises they will just break later. They don’t see the point of “committing”, when they know it is an empty commitment.

 

But there is a bigger story here. Because marriage is not primarily about our faithfulness to our vows or to each other. If that were it marriage would not be such a great story after all.

Humans mess up. We sin against each other, even those we love. We break our promises. We hurt each other.

Don’t misunderstand me here – there is so much great stuff about marriage! There is the friendship, the intimacy, creating a family together, the in-jokes, the warmth and service, and more.

But still… if that was all marriage was, why even write vows? Why commit at all? For the piece of paper? For the rings?

 

No, the bigger story here is about God’s faithfulness to the church He loves. It’s about the deep love of Jesus that lead him to the cross and his resurrection to take his rightful place as Head of the church. It’s about His bride – the Church – enjoying the warmth and protection of that Headship, and the restored relationship between the two.

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This is what drives our commitment to each other. This is what gets us through the rough patches. This is what keeps our eyes on the road – OUR road – instead of glancing at the greener pastures surrounding us. This is what keeps us from building a nice little idol out of our marriage.

The story of marriage is bigger than us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your Child is a Sinner

And they need true grace.


There is some popular parenting advice out there these days that claims when small children act out, they aren’t actually being “naughty” or doing anything wrong, they are just trying to come to terms with their place in the world, and perhaps finding some aspect of that challenging.

This parenting advice says that they don’t need discipline, they just need your love and understanding and gentle guidance.

As Christian Mums, we always need to weigh parenting advice carefully against the Bible to see if it is consistent with the gospel, or opposed to the gospel.

The problem with this new parenting advice is that it is based on the philosophy that humans are basically good at heart. And this is a denial of the truth we see in the Bible, that humans are sinful at heart, even from birth.

I definitely agree that children need our love, understanding and gentle guidance, but because they are inherently sinful, those things alone will not cut it. You cannot love a child into being a good person – you are not God.

Sometimes I struggle with this parenting philosophy too. I’m tempted to make excuses for my kids’ sinfulness, blaming it on tiredness, hunger or over-stimulation. Those things certainly make self-control harder (even for me, as an adult!).

But how does God treat me when, in my tiredness, I lash out with harsh words to my husband? Does God say, “Oh, don’t worry about it – you’re only speaking harshly because you’re tired. All you need is a good night sleep.”?

No. He responds with gentle, loving correction. “You are tired right now, and that makes it harder to control yourself. Instead of leaning on yourself for the strength to do the right thing, you should lean on my grace. I have all you need.”

You see, the Bible teaches us that our actions are the overflow of our heart. No one can “make” us shout in anger, if the anger wasn’t already in our hearts. No one can “make” our children snatch a toy in selfishness if the selfishness wasn’t already in their hearts.

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:45

…the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.” Matthew 15:18

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Sin, at it’s heart, is rebellion against God. To say that our children are inherently sinful means that they are naturally set against God in their hearts, and the actions that spring forth from this rebellion are opposed to what God has set out in his law.

No one, on their own, can stop sinning because it is in our nature. And although I don’t do it perfectly, keeping this in mind has great benefits in my attitude to my children.

  • It means I’m not shocked by their sinfulness. When one of the kids comes out with a tantrum over not getting their way or shouts at me in anger, I don’t think “Where did that come from?!?” I know where it came from – their hearts.
  • I don’t take their bad behaviour personally. I know that they aren’t struggling with sin because of my failure as a parent, but because of their sin nature. I let them own their own behaviour, and then point them to the One who can help them to overcome it.
  • I don’t think I’m better than them. I can relate to them as a fellow sinner in need of God’s grace. And I can say this to them too! “Mummy needs Jesus to help her do the right thing.” Just the other day, my daughter said, “Mummy, maybe you can pray that God would help you not to yell at us today.” It was a real bitter-sweet moment! I might be a little further along the road than them, but we are on the same road.

 

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Comparing Bible translations 🙂


 

My husband and I read something once that said when your spouse apologises to you for doing something wrong, you should resist the urge to respond with “It’s okay.” The reason for this is, saying “it’s okay” is saying that what they did wasn’t really wrong at all. If they actually did something wrong, it’s much better to say, “I forgive you”. This acknowledges that they wronged you and by extending forgiveness, you are both agreeing to leave that wrong behind and move forward in grace. Saying “it’s okay” merely papers over the offence; it doesn’t actually bring you closer to each other.

True grace can only come when sin is looked at and acknowledged, unflinchingly. Making excuses for our kids or explaining away their bad behaviour with external circumstances might make us feel like we are being kind and extending grace, but this is not true grace.

True grace says, “Your heart is hopelessly wicked, but God can change you.”

True grace says, “Sometimes you do the wrong thing, when you know the right thing to do, but I forgive you.”

True grace says, “Come. Meet my Saviour, Jesus – I need Him just as much as you.”

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Stunning sunrise out my kitchen window the other day.