Children are a Gift from God Thursday, Oct 21 2010 

Unless the LORD builds the house,
its builders labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchmen stand guard in vain.

In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Sons are a heritage from the LORD,
children a reward from him.

Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are sons born in one’s youth.

Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their enemies in the gate.

(Psalm 127)

The message of the Bible, over and over again, is that children are a blessing, a gift from God.

This is incredibly humbling.

The message in our society is that children are things we create, of our own choosing, in our own time.

To realise that God is actually the one who decides (and I’ve heard of enough “oopsie” pregnancies and infertility struggles to know it’s true) just knocks me over!

Sometimes it’s like I’m a petulant child, demanding that I receive my Christmas gifts in August.

“I’m ready for my presents now,” I whine, “They’re mine anyway!”

“It’s not the right time,” says my Father gently.

 

If children are a gift, what right do any of us have to decide when we receive them?

 


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Asking for the Wrong Thing Wednesday, Oct 6 2010 

I was reading Acts 3:1-10 this morning – it’s the story of Peter and John healing the crippled beggar outside the temple courts.

When I have read this story in the past, I have usually focused in on the man’s reaction to his healing. He goes away walking and praising God (rightfully so).

But this morning I was struck by another aspect of the story.

This man has spent his whole life begging – the passage says he was born a cripple and placed outside the temple every day to beg for money. This is how he survived; he couldn’t do any other kind of work, so he relied on the generosity of others.

When Peter and John come along, not only do they give him their full attention (instead of just ignoring him), they give him something far greater than the money he is begging for. They give him full and complete healing from his crippled condition, in the name of Jesus Christ.

And what strikes me is that perhaps this cripple had been asking for the wrong thing all along. He thought he needed the money just to survive, just to get by and keep living. But what he really needed was healing from his condition. I wonder – he spent his days outside a temple – why did he never think to ask for healing? Perhaps he didn’t realise he needed it. Perhaps he didn’t think it was possible. Perhaps he didn’t think he had a right to ask for it. Or (this one really rings true for me) perhaps it was just too easy to keep going in survival mode.

Reflecting on my own life, I wonder how many times I am asking God for the wrong thing. I am asking him for handouts just to get by and survive – whether that be in my marriage, my work or my daily life. When what God really wants (and what I need) is to have my whole life transformed by the healing only he can bring.

Where am I asking for the wrong thing?

Truth to Hold Onto Monday, Jan 26 2009 

This song was on the radio tonight on my way home.

I think it was for me.

What If

Jadon Lavik

What if I climbed that mountain
What if I swam to that shore
What if every battle was victorious then would you love me more?
Would you love me more?

What if I were everybody’s first choice
What if I went farther than before
What if I stood high above the rest then would you love me more?
Would you love me more?

You say I belong to You apart from the things I do
You say I belong to You I’m in awe of why You do
Why You do, why You do
I’m in awe of You, ooh

What if I ignored the hand that fed me
What if I forgot to confess
What if I stumbled down that mountain then would you love me less?
Lord would You love me less

What if I were everyone’s last choice
What if I mixed in with the rest
What if I failed what I passed before
then would you love me less Lord would you
would you love me less, oh no oh no oh no

You say I belong to You apart from the things I do
You say I belong to You I’m in awe of why You do
Why You do, why You do
I’m in awe of You, ooh


What have I done to deserve Your son sent to die for me?
What can I give I want to live give me eyes to see
In a world that keeps changin’ there’s one thing that I know is true
Your love is stayin’ there’s nothing else I’ll hold onto

The way You love me, the way You do
The way You do, the way You love me, You love me, You love me
The way You do, the way You do, the way You love me
The way You love, You love, You love

Pondering Infertility, Part 2 Friday, Jan 16 2009 

I realise it has been a long time since my last post (2 months, I think!). So, if there’s anyone still interested, I’m going to continue where I left off before… 🙂

At the present time, I am mostly unaware of my endo. Aside from a few scars on my tummy and the odd friend checking that everything has been fine since the hospital visit, I don’t think about it much. Blake and I still talk about our future family as if it’s a sure thing. Sometimes one of us will throw in the comment, “If we can have kids…”

Blake has been so incredibly supportive through the whole thing. We weren’t even engaged when I was diagnosed, so he had every reason to break up with me. He has always assured me that it didn’t change anything between us. And, most importantly, he has always encouraged me to trust God in this.

Facing the prospect of infertility really drives home that it is God who is in control of my reproductive system, not me. When you’re planning your marriage and your family, it’s easy to talk as if these things will happen because we say they will. I’m reminded of this passage:

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

James 4:13-15

It’s total arrogance to think that we can decide when we will have children and how many we will have when we don’t know what the future holds (to clarify: I don’t think it’s arrogant to discuss these things and make plans. In fact, I think it’s wise to do so! What I’m getting at is expecting that we can say in certainty when these things will happen) . Similarly, it’s foolish to wallow in despair about possibilities of childlessness when it is God who plans out lives before they begin!

However, I think another result of facing possible infertility is that hearing about abortion cuts me more deeply. I have become so much more aware of the preciousness of human life. It hurts me that some are so willing to throw away what I am yearning for, and may not be able to have. Don’t they realise what a miracle it is when a child is created?

Having this condition has most certainly affected the way we plan to enter marriage. We have plans to wait for a few years before trying to have children. However, we are willing to be surprised 🙂 And we think it would be best to start our family by the time I am 25 in order to increase our medical chances of falling pregnant. In the meantime, I hope that this causes us to trust in God more and more as we learn to rest in his sovereignty.

Strength to Love Friday, Oct 24 2008 

God’s been teaching me the importance of relying on him, for everything, in prayer.

I’ve seen this clearly in my relationship with Blake (a tool that God has consistently used to sharpen me!).

Let me admit something to you: it’s not always easy to love Blake. And I’m not just talking about feeling in love with him. I mean loving him in my attitude, actions and words.

Sometimes I get the impression (from resources on marriage) that all engaged couples see each other with rose-coloured glasses and are blind to one another’s flaws. Well, it hasn’t really ever been that way with Blake and I. From the start, Blake has been insistent about the idea that one of God’s purposes for our relationship is to grow each other as Christians (iron sharpens iron). So we’ve never really been all that “lovey-dovey”.

(Okay, maybe sometimes.

Love you more times infinity plus one…)

Since engagement, I’ve realised a few things about love: it’s not loving to grit my teeth and say the right things while harbouring bitterness, it’s not loving to put on a “mood” just because I’ve been hurt and my hurt feelings/self-esteem are not the best judge of whether an issue is worth raising.

Thus it has become a lot harder to love Blake sometimes.

But God is faithful and always waiting to give his grace and strength to those who need it.

That’s me! I need it!

There have been so many times lately when I’ve run to God in desperation asking for more patience, more kindness, more tenderness of heart; asking him to flush the sin out of my heart with his cleansing water once more; begging him to give me another chance to do the right thing; asking him for forgiveness.

As I look forward to a lifetime with Blake, it’s such a relief to know that God will always be there. Indeed, that my relationship with him is above all others. It gives me the strength to love Blake knowing that I am loved perfectly by my father in heaven.

Unimpressive preachers Wednesday, Oct 8 2008 

We started looking at Titus (chapter 1) at God in the Loft today, which was somewhat about the qualities required in church leaders.

It got me thinking a bit about what I tend to look for in a church leader. I think we are all naturally drawn to the more charismatic types of leaders. They know how to speak well and they are easy to listen to.

I have heard people comment often that someone is unfit to be a pastor if they can’t speak in an engaging manner. I always agreed.

But today I was reflecting a bit more on some of my favourite preachers, who I almost discredited to begin with because they aren’t all that impressive in person. (I won’t name them because I don’t think anyone wants to be known as “unimpressive”, but just to clarify, I’m not talking about the preachers at my church.)

They weren’t charismatic and they didn’t have engaging voices.

However, over time I have come to respect and admire them because they teach the solid truth and their lives reflect Christ. These men are some of my favourite preachers now because, although they don’t wow me with their amazing public speaking skills, I can rely on them to preach the gospel and to live lives of integrity that demonstrate that gospel.

I am reminded that some people thought Paul was pretty unimpressive in person, and he himself acknowledged that he was not a good speaker by worldly standards. What made him such an effective minister of Christ was that everything he taught was based on the gospel.

So I’m wondering if sometimes we hold unrealistic expectations of our church leaders. I think we would do well to patiently listen to them and see if what they are teaching is the gospel, rather than putting so much weight on their preaching style.

Great is Your faithfulness! Wednesday, Aug 27 2008 

Blake asked me to marry him last night.

I’ve been looking forward to the time when I could do this post on my blog. Not so I can tell you all how excited I am (although I most certainly am!) but because now I get to share with you some of the ways God has been incredibly faithful to Blake and I on this whole journey.

From the start of our relationship, Blake has always been the committed one and a lot of the time it felt like his feelings for me were stronger than mine were for him. Over the December/January period my feelings changed a lot. I started to become a lot more attached to him. At about the same time, lots of people I knew were getting engaged or married and it made me long for that too (in an unhealthy way). In fact, I would say I was jealous of those people.

Blake and I had marriage as our goal, but we hadn’t talked about time frames and I was desperate for that security.

So I found ways to bring it up and eventually we did talk about it openly.

But it didn’t go well. We both ended up with hurt feelings: I felt like Blake didn’t want to be with me and Blake felt pressured by my demands that he work out a time frame for marriage. We agreed not to discuss it anymore, at least for a while.

I turned to God in prayer, asking for patience for myself, for guidance and wisdom for Blake and that I would be able to trust God’s leading through Blake. Blake was also praying that he would know when would be a good time for us to get married.

I settled down. I was still praying about it, but it was becoming easier to trust God.

A few months ago, on a walk, Blake told me that he was thinking that mid-2009 would be a good time for us to get married and that’s what he would like to work towards.

Needless to say I was overjoyed and extremely thankful to God for answering both of our prayers for help. In reflection, I think it is an example of what’s described in Proverbs 3:5-6:

Trust in the Lord with all you heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

What can I do but praise him?

And that’s only the first part of what I wanted to tell you…

Once we knew the time frame for marriage that we were planning for, a problem arose as to where I would live for the first half of 09. I currently live in a place called Flo Harris Lodge, run by my church, Petersham Baptist Church. They generally don’t like people to stay for only 6 months because it’s so hard to find replacements mid-year. So that was only going to be a last resort. I wanted to move out, but I also didn’t think it would be fair to move out with a bunch of people from Flo at the end of the year, because they would also have the difficulty of finding a replacement for me 6 months in.

I was talking to my Mum about it last time I was home and she had a few suggestions. The first was that I live with my cousins in the Western Suburbs and commute to uni. But I didn’t like that idea because it would mean seeing Blake a lot less and probably leaving my church. Her other idea was to live with a young family from church and pay board. That idea seemed okay, but I’d never really considered it.

The other idea I had was to find an already established share house in the church that would have a vacancy next year.

While I was thinking and praying over this issue, I thought that I probably wouldn’t go about seeking options seriously until we were engaged, or it might seem a bit weird to be talking definitely about wedding plans.

However, I started to get a little anxious. The share houses I had my eyes on seemed to already have filled their vacancies or would be dissolving at the start of 09. I kept praying that God would provide a place for me to live next year and that he would help me to trust him.

I was liking the sound of living with a family more and more. I would be able to learn lots about how families (other than my own) function and I would be able to cook and clean and mind kids (all things I love to do!). But I was still keen not to formally start looking until it was official.

A couple of weeks ago Fiona (the book-keeper for Flo and a young mother from church) called me into the office and asked if I had found somewhere to live next year (I had asked her months before about whether I would get my bond back if I stayed at Flo for only 6 months). I said I hadn’t yet, but I was thinking of living with a young family from church.

She said, “Oh, that’s really strange. We’re going to be looking for someone next year and I was just going to ask you.”

So after a few more logistical conversations, it was decided that I will be living with Fiona and her family next year.

And all this before I’m even engaged!

To me it was an amazing example of how God had it all under control to begin with. And how he leads us to pray for certain things so that he is all the more glorified when he brings them into being.
As we plan for the marriage ahead of us I am hopeful that I will see (and share!) many more examples of God’s amazing faithfulness.

Hope Wednesday, Jul 30 2008 

Sin is a constant struggle; a plague on this life.

It ruins so much, and spoils innocent things.

Recently I’ve been so comforted in the knowledge that not only will it all come to an end one day, but that God is working in me now to remove my sinfulness and make me more like Christ.

It’s great to have hope that I am being renewed each day, that the sin is being drained out of my heart so I can enjoy God more fully.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

2 Corinthians 4:16

Jesus is Lord Monday, Apr 7 2008 

This is a concept I’ve been coming to grips with lately.

It’s one of those Christian catch phrases that has easily fallen from my lips many times without facing much scrutiny.

Why am I only coming to fully understand what this means now?

Well, it’s taken me long enough to fully realise what it means to call Jesus my Saviour.

When I was baptised at the end of February this year, I told how 2007 was a year in which God convicted me of my sinful behaviour and nature. I came to see that I could not save myself.

In this way, calling Jesus my Saviour is an admission of my own inadequacy to deal with my sins and position before God.

So how is this different from calling him Lord? And why is it important that he is both?

Giving Jesus the role of Lord over my life means that I can’t just do things my own way anymore.

I can’t disobey God and continually come back seeking forgiveness (well, I can….but that’s not letting Jesus be Lord). Calling him Lord means submitting my will to his. It means choosing to do what I know pleases God, not myself. It means saying “no” to the things I know are wrong.

On one level, this is a lot harder than calling Jesus Saviour. When he is Saviour, I can admit I’m inadequate, and stop there. But when he’s Lord, I actually have to live the way he says.

And on another level, it is so liberating.

I don’t have to be destroyed by the weight of every moral choice – I can choose to do God’s will. I must choose to do God’s will.

This doesn’t negate the fact that I still make choices, in fact, it makes my choices all the more important.

Christ’s Lordship means that I’m not just living for little old me anymore. It means that my desires are not primarily what matters.

I find it so freeing, when faced with a tough choice, to be able to defer to God’s will.

Even so, this is still something I haven’t got down pat. It’s a daily struggle to submit myself to God’s will and Christ’s Lordship. But it’s a joy when I do.

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.

1 Peter 3:15a

Contentment vs. Passivity Thursday, Oct 18 2007 

While I was home on holidays a few weeks ago, I had the privilege of hearing my pastor preach on 1 Corinthians 7 – that seemingly enigmatic passage about singleness and marriage.

He prefaced his sermon with the fact that he was working through first Corinthians expositorily, and this is a passage frequently covered topically. He also said that he might have “glossed over” (read: not fully explored) some of the more detailed issues because of time constraints.

So, despite the fact that I was only hearing one sermon from a series, I found the teaching very helpful and, in a lot of ways, different to teachings I had previously heard on 1 Corinthians 7.

The basic thrust of the message was that Paul is telling us, as Christians, to be content with the stage of life we are now in; to not long for some other situation that may seem “holier”. Apparently, this was the Corinthians’ problem: they kept thinking that singleness meant that a person was more holy. Naturally this was creating problems in the church.

I think a nice summary of Paul’s point is found in the following verses:

17Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. 18Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. 19Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. 20Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him. 21Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. 22For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord’s freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ’s slave. 23You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. 24Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to.

1 Corinthians 7:17-23

What a freeing message – nothing we do (not circumcision, not uncircumcision, not slavery, not freedom) affects our salvation and holiness. Holiness is something that we get through Christ.

I think I always struggled with this chapter because it has often been used to preach “the gift of singleness” idea. That is, the notion that by merely being single, you are gifted and somehow better off than married or dating people.

Now, I realise that Paul says single people can focus on pleasing God better than married people can. I don’t dispute that. I do, however, think it requires a correct attitude in the heart of the single person.

They have to want to live to please God. Your life is not automatically more pleasing to him merely by being single. You have to want it and you have to pursue it.

This is something that I struggle with a lot. I heard, in a great talk the other day, that in God’s eyes, you are either single or married. There is no dating, courtship, engagement. There’s single and there’s married, and there’s ways we’re supposed to behave in either situation.

Often I find myself thinking that certain problems would just go away if I was married to Blake. Common thoughts include “We wouldn’t struggle sexually if we were married” and “If I knew we were going to be married, I could be more committed to solving arguments.”

But Paul advocates something different. He says to be content with where we are. To not wish we were somewhere else.

However, I think there is a difference between contentment and passivity.

The content person actively seeks God and how they can please him, no matter what the situation.

The passive person lives in fear that their life is not pleasing to God and, therefore, doesn’t actually achieve much.

I guess this is still an idea I’m wrestling with. I just know I used to think that desiring marriage and even pursuing it would be considered wrong as if it was somehow an indication of discontent. I’m seeing that contentment doesn’t mean standing still and living in fear. It means making choices and trusting God to guide you. It means knowing that your future is secure in Christ and feeling free to live life to the full.

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