Category Archives: Think

Forgiving and forgetting?

I’ve never really had to forgive in a big way. That is, no one has ever really said or done anything that, after a short cool-down period, I haven’t been able to forgive. It seems that I’ve just had little day to day moments of needing to forgive, when somebody has spoken too quickly, another has come down too hard, or someone has embarrassed me.

Recently, however, I’ve experienced two separate hurts which have challenged my ability to forgive. Having been slapped in the face with the sin of other people, I’ve discovered that I have to fight with every ounce of my strength not to want to grab hold of it and revel in their failings. Perhaps if I expose the ways in which I’ve been hurt, others will see how truly awful the offender is, and my outrage will be justified? Maybe I will allow myself to brood on my anger just for a little while, long enough for them to learn their lesson, but not long enough for me to become bitter. I don’t deserve this, I think often.

In the midst of all my feelings of injustice, anger, hurt and grief at harsh words said and tainted relationships, never before have I thought so hard on the depths God had to go to forgive me, a wretched sinner. I know that I am a sinner. How undeserving am I of the beautiful forgiveness God has given me in Christ, yet it is mine? I know that we’re all sinners. How are undeserving are we all of the way God has welcomed us unworthy creatures back into his fold?

And so again, I can forgive, because God has modelled forgiveness perfectly to me.

As time passes though, I feel as though our reconciliation has not lead to resolution. I keep wondering whether reconciliation necessarily entails fully restored relationships? (I know that Jesus’ death pays our debt and enables us to have a right relationship with God again, but is it possible for us lowly humans?) I find myself frequently revisiting the events, not because I haven’t forgiven people, but because there remains this uneasy sense that all is not quite right. Am I supposed to forgive and forget? Should I be able to move forward from having forgiven, to forgetting what has unfolded? Maybe this indicates that I haven’t forgiven at all?

When God wipes away our sin with the blood of Christ, does he forget our failings?

Fool

I co-lead a women’s Bible study at college. I really enjoy being able to meet with the other wives to read Galatians and pray – it’s a nice break from the house, plus Izaac and Zoe get to spend some precious daddy/daughter time together.

But last night I wasted this time. I sat there not listening to God’s word, but worrying about the future. I sat there not listening to my sister’s share their lives, but being caught up in my own thoughts. I sat there feeling sorry for myself, as I made a mental list of all the things I wished were easier, tidier, more joyful.

How foolish I am!

Don’t I know that God has my future mapped out and that he is in control? Don’t I know that the things God has planned for me are so much bigger and better than what’s in my head? Don’t I know that God has given me everything I need?

Who’s the greatest?

I had my Old Testament exam today, and am now studying for my final exam (New Testament) tomorrow. It’s a bit hectic having to back up after one paper to study for the next. But as a bit of comic relief, a friend pointed out that this afternoon us MTC first years are in the inter-testamental period – I liked that one!

There was one question in the exam asking who, according to 2 Kings was the greatest king after David? There’s been a bit of banter going around about who everyone wrote down – Hezekiah in the left corner, Josiah in the right.

Here’s the glowing reference given to Hezekiah in 2 Kings 18:5-6: “He trusted in the Lord the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. For he held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses”.

Here’s what it says about Josiah in 2 Kings 23:25: “Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him”.

Both pretty similar. Both pretty good. My gut says Josiah, my marital loyalty says Hezekiah. In my exam tiredness I said neither.

Caring creatively

We spent time in class yesterday thinking about mental illness and how our churches are going at caring for those who struggle.

Someone made the comment that casseroles are like a bunch of flowers. It’s a nice gesture, but often unnecessary. We want to be able to give something to show we care, so we cook up a whole heap of freezer meals, dump them at the doorstep and think we’ve done our part. We might not even knock on the door for fear we’ll get sucked into a bottomless pit.

She then went on to talk more generally about how we care for those in need, and again questioned whether a casserole really does the trick. Sure, the thought is nice, but it wasn’t as if her or her husband couldn’t boil an egg, or open a can of baked beans once their baby arrived.

We need to be more creative.

Would you like to be my friend?

How do you make friends as an adult? It’s not something you have to practice as often as when you’re a child, and all this talk of getting to know people within your community for the sake of sharing the gospel has got me thinking.

Since moving on from university and my old workplace, I’ve lost the point of contact with the majority of my friends who don’t know Jesus. I can now easily count on one hand these friends, which is a great shame.

So, I’m out to make some contacts. But my question is, where do I start? Call me uncreative, but I am struggling to think of ways to get to know people. I live in a block of units, and in the last 8 months have hardly seen the same person twice; I study at a Bible college, so everyone there has already heard the gospel; I don’t have children, so am not running into different parents at birthday parties, sporting matches or the school drop-off; I don’t drink coffee, so I don’t have a regular cafe haunt.

Maybe these are all just lame excuses, but it is actually something I’m struggling with.

Happiness

I’ve been tagged by Simone in this meme. It’s my first. I have to list 10 things that make me happy, which is a pretty easy ask. Then I’m meant to tag other people, which is a bit harder. So, I’m not going to do it…because that would make me unhappy. If anyone else wants to share your sources of happiness, go for it!

1. Being able to call God my Father.

2. Having a cup of tea placed on my bedside table just as I’m waking up in the morning.

3. Reading the newspapers on a Sunday.

4. Eating eggs for breakfast.

5. Walking through a park on our way to college, which we affectionately call ‘dog park’. Lush, sprawling lawns, and canines of every shape and size.

6. Wearing daggy thermals on a cold day, knowing that I’m so much warmer than everyone else.

7. Sitting on the verandah of my childhood home in Tamworth listening to the country music tunes float across town on the wind during the annual festival.

8. Camping at Brooms Head beach at Christmas time with the inlaws.

9. Reading this blog, and looking at all the pretty things I could do if only I could sew.

10. Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate

Framed

Different people tend to use different frameworks to help show how the various parts of the Bible hold together. I think it can be a helpful way of dealing with the wonderful unity and variety that we find within the Scriptures. But sometimes, when I’m searching for such broad, overarching themes it can feel like I’m trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

Graeme Goldsworthy likes to see all things tied together by the idea of kingdom, that is, ‘God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule’.

Others prefer to look at the Bible from a covenant perspective, where we can see the repetition and development of God’s promises throughout the Scriptures, all fulfilled in Jesus.

I like both of these. Perhaps that’s because I have thought about them a lot.

Another theme which I hadn’t thought much about until recently is mission. Is it possible that all parts of the Bible can hang together off this idea of mission? Does it really frame the entire biblical narrative?

God’s plans for salvation can definitely be seen throughout the Bible as we move from creation to new creation. These plans will ultimately reach the ends of the earth. This will happen as God’s people are sent out to tell others of the glorious way in which they’ve been brought into his kingdom – through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection – and invite them to turn from their rebellious ways to serve the true king.

I suppose this all does sound rather missional, but for some reason it just doesn’t sit as well with me. I can’t quite work out why.

Don’t fence me in

On the weekend I attended a conference where we spent some time thinking about boundaries. Are they good or a bad? Are they biblical or not? Should we have them?

The idea of ‘boundaries’ can be seen in a few different places in the Bible. One of these is in the distinction between God’s holiness and our sinfulness. In Exodus, God ‘set limits’ (Exodus 19:10). He didn’t put these in place because of his busy schedule, however, but in order to protect his people (Exodus 33:20). I found this helpful.

Something else I have been reflecting on since, is how I often draw lines/put up fences in order to gain control over my chaotic life. But should I expect to ever have complete order and control in my life? I suppose not. The Bible’s diagnosis of the chaos that we live in is that it is a result of human sinfulness, and God’s judgement on it. This is actually how life will be in this age. In other words, as Philip Jensen put it, in putting up boundaries or walls in my life, I am more often than not ‘seeking security in the scene of sin’. My best efforts to order my life by placing boundaries around it, will ultimately be in vain.

Instead, Philip encouraged us to find ‘satisfying security in the sovereign Saviour’. We’re never going to ‘have it all’ in this lifetime. We’re to expect suffering, but do so knowing that it is under God’s sovereign hand that these things are happening, and that nothing will separate us from him (Romans 8, all of it)!

Carmelina Read spoke of another  issue that related especially to my situation at the moment. For some time now I have lived with depression and have struggled with the tension between stepping back from some areas of life, or continuing to push through (Cathy has some helpful thoughts on this). In taking time out and in deciding what to drop and what to continue, I really need to be careful not to let this self-protection become an excuse for selfishness. It can be very easy for me, and dare I say it, a lot of us, to try and avoid suffering and sacrifice, rather than seeing it as a privilege to suffer for Christ.

I also don’t want this self-protection to lead to lovelessness. What a danger it can be to focus too much on my own happiness! The goal of any of the boundaries I put up in my life needs to be to serve Jesus, and to love others more. It is right to look after myself and not run myself into the ground, but this should always be so that I can serve Jesus and others better in the long term, not simply have a more comfortable life.

I have realised that the language of ‘boundaries’ can be really confusing and unhelpful. In the end, we are never going to be able to control our lives or remove ourselves from the trials of this lifetime. It’s just like the waves in the ocean. We can never stop the waves, or control them, but we can get better at riding them.

Crossing over

I’ve spent this afternoon with a whole bunch of other Christians thinking about multicultural ministry. I felt very rebuked in terms of my own ignorance, attitudes and prejudices, when we considered the face of Sydney.

So multicultural is our country now that in most of our major cities, in order to cross cultures, we need only to cross the road, or even our own back fence. In times gone by we have sent Christians out to the world, whereas now the world has come to us. This calls for a number of changes to the way we think about how we reach others, and particularly other cultures with the gospel.

  • Someone pointed out, we’ve reached the point where ‘all those entering into full time ministry need to be willing to do cross-cultural ministry’. We can no longer think in terms of the local pastor, but the local missionary. In fact, we are all missionaries!
  • We need to rethink how we do church. How difficult it is for a Muslim friend to enter into our church building and experience what it is that we know as ‘church’!
  • We need to be praying for our cities, that the freedom and unity that comes only in the gospel will be known throughout all of the cultures that make up our country.
  • Creative thinking is needed when it comes to exposing ourselves and the next generation to multicultural gospel work. Often we take the expensive route and do short term missions in order to get ‘exposed’ (and these have their benefits, don’t get me wrong!), but why not spend some time in the neighbouring suburb (or our own) gaining insights into the way others live and learning how we can bring the gospel to them?
  • + a myriad of other  issues…

Of course, this brings into question the purpose of the church. I still think that the church gathering is primarily for the building up of God’s people through the proclamation of his word, but at the same time, the doors need to be opened to the lost sheep.

What I need to work hard at doing is repenting of my prejudices and out-sourcing of cross-cultural ministry to others, and rather embracing the diverse nature of my surroundings and looking for ways I can further equip myself to love my neighbours.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Christians

The last year has been a tough one for me, for many and varied reasons which I won’t go into now. I had morning tea with a college lecturer’s wife the other day who encouraged me in my down-heartedness to read the Psalms regularly. I decided I needed a Psalm for 2010. One that I could read each day, to lift my eyes from the ground and up to God. Her suggestion was Psalm 13. ‘Cognitive behaviour therapy for Christians’, she called it.

Psalm 13

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

1 How long, O LORD ? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?

2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

3 Look on me and answer, O LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;

4 my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.

6 I will sing to the LORD,
for he has been good to me.

David spends the first four verses of the Psalm crying out to God and asking how much longer he will have to go on like this, having sorrow in his heart all the day? He feels defeated, exhausted, grieved and forgotten by God. He is negative about his situation, and concerned about how things will look in the future. I consider how I have felt like this recently, and realise that all too often I have echoed these words of David.

But…

The next two verses see David recalling God’s character. He lifts his eyes from his situation to see God’s steadfast love; he leaves behind his feelings of defeat to fill his mind with the joy of God’s salvation; he sings of God’s rich goodness to him, rather than questioning it.

I have a great deal to learn from Psalm 13.

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