Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

27 August 2011

This is what I meant to say

There has been a thought pattern developing here, here, and here.  But what follows, copied with permission (really...I emailed and asked and they kindly said yes) from here (HT: Rebecca) says it all - wonderfully, clearly and plainly. I'm probably not quite old enough to say it quite like this.  So in this instance it is good to borrow some wise words from someone with a bit more credibility than me. This really says it all.

Preparing to Be an Amazing Old Man or Woman
by Jim Elliff

Like it or not, if you continue to live, you’ll get old. As you look around at all those ancient people in the grocery store, the golf course, the retirement village and the nursing home, don’t be smug—you’ll be there soon enough. It will do you well to prepare to make those years the best they can be for the glory of God.
It’s not uncommon for God to use older people. Take Caleb who fought giants as an octogenarian. Or Moses, who led a cantankerous people up to the promised land at 120. Remember Anna, the widow, who served God with prayers at the temple in Jerusalem. God delights in doing this, because it makes clear that the power for living and doing the will of God isn’t found in mere human capacity, but in God Himself. Is it possible that God could use you even more in your latter years than in the earlier ones? There is nothing to say otherwise, as far as God is concerned.
Here are some suggestions:
1. Learn the Bible as well as possible while you can read and think well. When you come to the latter years, you are supposed to be wise. Now, please tell me, how can you be wise without thinking God’s thoughts? Impossible. Get them now. And be rigorous about it. Most older believers will tell you that it is those passages of Scripture that they memorized or studied deeply that have stuck with them in the hard times. You should have as much in your mental pouch for difficult days as possible. Do it now.
2. Clear your conscience. Don’t harbor unresolved issues that will create worrisome trouble for you both now and later. You can tell the people who have done that, whether they are young or old. Cain is an illustration. His hidden sin caused his countenance to fall and led to awful consequences. If you are a believer, carrying unresolved sin is a burden unfit for you. Call the family in and admit your failures, repay what was stolen, ask forgiveness for your attitudes and actions, settle accounts with your associates, your family, your church. Christ has forgiven you of your sins if you are His, now you must forgive, make restitution if appropriate, and ask for the forgiveness of others. If you don’t do so, you will need to examine if you are a believer at all. Jesus said, “If you do not forgive others, neither will the Father forgive your trespasses” (Mt. 6:15).
3. Put love first. Believers are loving people on their way to an inheritance of love. Show it. Jesus and the authors of the New Testament all testify to the supreme place of love in the life of true believers. It is the mark of maturity, the royal law, the perfect bond of unity. It is above all, and is the law of Christ. The older I get the more I realize that everything can be summarized in the word “love.” Loving God and loving others is the will of God for you. You should be better at it as you get older. It’s your full time occupation, and it might be all you can do later. But you must begin demonstrating more of that love now. Aren’t you glad God didn’t only love in His thoughts. No, He “demonstrated his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Love is to be lived. You wear it as well as feel it. Be the most loving person you could possibly be, beginning right now.
4. Be a giver. There is little so joyful and helpful as giving. It is just like God who “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (Jn. 3:16). Here is a little clue: giving is satisfying in ways that hoarders never will experience. I once knew a woman who could not let you leave her house without giving you something. Once, looking all around for something to put in our hands, she was only able to find a can opener. But we prized it because it came from a heart of love. Who would not want to be around people like her. But she was the real recipient, enjoying God’s favor. Be open-handed with your time, money, and things. You will never get rid of all that junk you own unless you get started giving now.
5. Don’t quit serving. One of the most often heard phrases in the church is “I feel I ought to let the younger people do it.” Though I sympathize with the need to employ all of our people in the ministries of the church, the idea of marginalizing older people just when they get more time to serve Christ and His church is poorly thought through. It is true that older people might find it wise to shift their focus or to take a different role in their service to the people of God, but that is a very different thing than quitting. Be gracious when the leaders suggest that you step down from a ministry, but don’t take it personally. They are doing the best they can to figure out how to use people the right way. Don’t become bitter about it. Do something else that is fitting your stage in life and do it with all your heart. Be an example of gracious service to God. God’s people don’t retire, but they do take different assignments.
6. Be an example of faithfulness. Loyalty to church and to friends is in short supply these days. You can rectify that. Be as faithful to the gatherings and activities of the church as is physically possible. If you cannot drive, don’t feel badly about asking someone to pick you up. You can help cover their gasoline, or you can take them out to eat at times to show your gratefulness. Be there even in the evening when most old folks sink into their easy chairs. What better place is there to be than in the fellowship of other believers? It will cheer your spirits, when slouching in the recliner will depress you. Teach the younger ones that they should pay any price to be with other believers.
Well, there is a start at being a great old person. I hope you will do this and more. If you’ve been grinding to a standstill in your love for others and your service for God, it’s not too late to repent and to get with it. 

21 August 2011

O Love That Will Not Let Me Go

During the course of our lives there are certain days that will claim extra and special preparation.  I remember one Christmas Eve, I think I was about 14 at the time, when I voluntarily cleaned my bedroom and went so far as to collect jasmine from the garden and place it in a vase on my freshly excavated chest of drawers so that I would wake up on Christmas morning in a room that was beautiful in every way.

That's just one Christmas.  Most Christmases get special attention - practical and spiritual.  Easter too.  There were special preparations leading up to our wedding day and also for the days our sons were born - practical preparations so that these days would go well but spiritual preparations too, hoping that what we said and did on these occasions would maybe whisper the gospel into someone's listening, searching ear.

But what about the day of our death?  A bit hard to prepare for in lots of ways.  Death may come suddenly and unexpectedly.  Or it may come at the end of a long, slow illness or at the end of the gradual process of aging, leaving us too debilitated and tired by the time we get there to do much about it.

But what is death?  For the Christian it is the day we fall safely into the arms of Jesus.  That last breath drawn marks the beginning of glorious, eternal life with our Father in heaven. 

I have recently finished reading O Love That Will Not Let Me Go, the fourth book edited by Nancy Guthrie in a series of collected readings on a given subject.  This one is on the subject of death and bears the subtitle Facing Death with Courageous Confidence in God.  And like the others, it's wonderful. 

It isn't easy reading in lots of ways.  The various writers don't make light of the physical reality and pain of death which makes this book very confronting.  Nor do they make light of the sadness and tragedy of death.  Jesus himself wept when his friend Lazarus died - weeping not just for the loss of his friend but also over death itself, that His Father's perfect creation had become so stained and sullied by sin as to be marred by the ugliness of death. 

For the one who dies loving Jesus, death has lost its sting.  Because when the last breath of life is drawn, the Christian passes away from this life into eternal life with Jesus.  And while this book has plenty to say about the pain of death, it has more to say about the wondrous glory of what lies beyond it. 

But back to the issue of preparing for the day of one's death - because this book is not just about dying well.  It's about living well because therein lies the preparation for death. It is best summarised by the second last paragraph of the book, penned by Richard Sibbes:

Therefore, if we desire to end our days in joy and comfort, let us now lay the foundation of a comfortable death.  To die well is not a thing of that light moment as some imagine:  it is no easy matter.  But to die well is a matter of every day.  Let us daily do some good that may help us at the time of our death.  Every day by repentance pull out the sting of some sin, that so when death comes, we may have nothing to do but to die.

(From "God Reserves the Best for the Last" by Richard Sibbes (page 158) in O Love That Will Not Let Me Go edited by Nancy Guthrie.)

As I said, this book is confronting in many ways.  But it is also rich with comfort, encouragement and hope.  As for all the books in this series, it is definitely worth reading.  And reading it would be time well spent.

03 August 2011

Status Report: August


Drinking...a cup of tea. I was recently introduced to black tea with mint. It's delicious. But the weather was too awful to head outdoors for mint leaves today so this is just the usual English Breakfast with a dash of milk.  I've actually reduced the amount of tea I drink lately...and feeling much better for it too.

Thinking...it has been a long time since I posted anything.

Watching...Masterchef and have absolutely loved following the progress of a dear friend's sister competing on it.  But I will be SO glad when Sunday's finale is screened, the tv can be turned off (for a very long time) and the evenings can be reclaimed.  And to the young member of this family who asked if we were going to watch "The Renovators" next, the answer is no.

Figuring...there may be a link between the "Thinking" and the Watching"...

Falling behind...in my daily Bible reading.  (This however is not linked to the "Watching.")  About a week behind at the moment.  Hoping to have caught up by the end of the month.  Currently in Chronicles, the 20s Psalms and Mark.  And loving our current sermon and Bible study series on Deuteronomy.

Wondering...if anyone has used the M'Cheyne Bible reading plan and if so, what you thought of it?  I'm wondering if I will give it a go for next year. 

Reading..."Feminine Threads: Women in the Tapestry of Christian History" by Diana Lynn Severance.  I'm fairly sure I'll be mentioning this one again.

Spurred on...by a post I read about looking to God in prayer for grace for the immediate now and not being concerned with or distracted by the list of things that need to be done by the end of this week or next week.  I can seek His grace for the end of the week things at the end of the week.  It's trying to live out Matthew 6:34. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Anticipating...writing a post on an excellent book I read during the holidays.  Soon.  Maybe after Sunday!!!

Also anticipating...tackling the room in our house dubbed "the horrible stuff room."  It was the room where we lobbed all the difficult to place stuff when we first moved here three and a half years ago.  It has been added to since then, but rarely subtracted from.  I have had the bright idea of giving that room 15 minutes of my attention each week and seeing where I am with it by the end of the year.  Fifteen minutes a week surely won't do me in...

Copying...Rebecca and trying to decide if I will do a status report every month.