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

11 January 2012

Holding fast to the Word of God

I have to admit that I'm not very good at reading LONG quotes in blog posts.  There's a small handful of bloggers whose quotes, long or short, I will read because I just know it will be worthwhile.  But for the most part, I am like everyone else circling about in cyberspace, with my increasingly short concentration span.  If it is too long I will just skim over it, or worse, skip it.

I say this because what follows is a long-ish quote.  It is from the most linked-to sermon on this blog - John Piper's "Holding Fast to the Word of God in 2010" from 10th January (in 2010, funnily enough.)  I don't know how many times I have listened to that sermon now.  So worthwhile just for the first fifteen minutes where he reads the whole of Philippians magnificently. 

But a little way into the actual sermon there is a wonderful section (that makes for a long-ish quote) that has stayed with me ever since I first heard it.  If you are serious about reading your Bible, hang in there with the following long-ish quote.  Read it through.  Or go to the sermon itself and listen from the 22 minute mark.  And be encouraged. 

I would guess that almost everyone in the hearing of my voice is dissatisfied with the spiritual power and consistency and faithfulness and fruitfulness of your life. I certainly am with my life.  I would assume everyone else is also dissatisfied with the level of your own spiritual power. 

And I do not consider that anything I say is a simple remedy to that spiritual weakness. God is sovereign.  He changes times and seasons. And that includes global political seasons and it includes church seasons and it includes family seasons and it includes personal spiritual seasons. 

God changes seasons. Are you in a dry season?  God changes seasons. 
 
But one thing I know: There is a spiritual diet without which no Christian can be strong or healthy or fruitful.  And that diet is the Word of God. That I know.

Now I want you to hear me very carefully, lest I be misunderstood.  You may be surprised at what I say.  I am making you zero promises that reading or memorising the Bible will make you strong or healthy or fruitful spiritually.  

The Pharisees read and memorized their Bible more than you or I ever will. And almost all of them went to hell, Jesus said in Matthew 8:12, "cast into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth," filled with the Bible.  

I am not giving you any guaranteed technique for power. The Spirit blows where and when he wills. 

I have known terrible seasons of barrenness in reading the Bible.  Did you hear what I said?  Not in neglecting the Bible - in reading the Bible.  I am not God.  The Bible is not God.  God is God.  And He blows with His power where and when He pleases.   I make you zero promises that reading the Bible will make you strong.   God will make you strong if He chooses to make you strong.  

But this I know.  He will not do it without the Bible.  That I know. 

Wonderful words.

05 January 2012

2012 - The Year of Praying for my Friends

Are you over New Year's resolutions?  Be of good courage.  I made a resolution either at the beginning of 2009 or 2010 to get a shelf up in our guest bathroom.  And here it is...done at the beginning of 2012.


Sometimes New Year's resolutions just need to be looked upon as long term goals!  And be helped along by a husband for the drilling bits...ie. for most of the project except taking the plastic off the kit and painting it!!

2011 was supposed to be The Year of Five New Things.  I think when I settled on that theme for the year I had in mind bold new ventures to keep my synapses well connected (you know...learning a new musical instrument, mastering a foreign language, reading a well written book every week...) and other bold new ventures to keep my conversation at dinner parties scintillating (going on safari and camping in those beautiful, almost-a-house tents with sumptuous dinners by candlelight on the savannah) to avoid dining out on last year's decade's stories.  Even stories from two or THREE decades ago...

Well, I can't really vouch for the synapses but I will say that it is lucky I don't attend very many dinner parties because after "new thing #1" alongside the stuff of normal life, I just didn't have time or head space to take on "new things 2,3,4 and 5."  And growing a pot of thyme on my kitchen window sill, whilst new, doesn't really seem sufficiently grand to rate a mention...

I gave 2011 the wrong title.  It should have been The Year of the New Normal.  It was my first year of having both boys in school full time - the first year of what I imagine will be the norm for years to come.  And while I genuinely love the idea of keeping a lazy diary in order to be free to act upon the spontaneous moments, I know that if I kept a lazy diary I would in fact be very ill disciplined.  So the days and weeks were filled with volunteering at school (including that P&C role), reading the Bible with other women, running Bible studies, teaching Scripture and Sunday School, doing the preparation for each of those things and keeping house and home in between times.  Busy...but it was flexible enough to cope with injured or sick children at home from school and for moments when the spontaneous had to take precedence over the organised.

And I am anticipating that this year will be more of the same.  But in the enthusiasm of a new year, I do have a few new plans to replace the shelf project.

In 2012 I plan to...

Get some reading glasses.  The fine print has become too fine.  All through 2011 I have been heard to say over and over again, "I really must get myself some reading glasses," - said with a tone of slight despair.  It's happening.  On Christmas day I was struggling to read some fine print at the Christmas dinner table and picked up a pair of glasses that belongs to one of my sisters to see just how these glasses work.  They were way too strong and just made the print blurry in a different way.  Another sister got me a pair of her glasses (her first ever prescription glasses) and WOW!  They were like magic.  On the first day of school I will be lining up at the optometrist's shop ready for my own pair of magic eyes.

Widen my repetoire of evening meals and the repetoire of my family's tastebuds.  We seem to have been rotating around pasta (bolognese and lasagne mostly), teriakyi chicken and rice, burritos and meat/chicken/fish and salad/veg for the last year.  Desperately needing some expansion there.  And during the winter months I cook in bulk (two or three kilos of pasta sauce, curry or casserole at a time) and this year I would also like to explore doing some trading with friends - swapping portions of my frozen bulk cooking for theirs, again to explore some different tastes.  Local friends, let me know if you are in.

Approach my Bible reading differently.  As previously posted, I am going to study the Prophets hard during the first half of the year - the part of the year when I have more enthusiasm and energy - and then use the second half of the year to do the first half of my old faithful Bible reading plan to get through the first half of the Old Testamant (most of it other than the Prophets), the New Testament and the Psalms once. 

Add to the thyme on the window sill.  With a pot of basil and a pot of mint.


And pray for a dear friend of mine and her dear family every single day of 2012.  Because ones close to my heart are travelling to Kiribati to do development work there for a year.  And I have promised to pray for them each day this year. 

And that is why I have called 2012 "The Year of  Praying for my Friends" - because "The Year of Thyme, Mint and Basil on my Kitchen Window Sill" sounds perfectly ridiculous.
  
Happy New Year.

Kiribati

I'll probably mention Kiribati occasionally this year...so here's a little introduction.

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Adapted from the Australian Volunteers International site with a mix of my own general knowledge...

Kiribati, pronounced "Kiribus" (probably "Kiribaas" is better), is a group of thirty three coral atolls in the Pacific Ocean. Once a British protectorate, then a colony, Kiribati gained complete independence in 1979 while remaining a member of the Commonwealth.


Map from worldatlas.com

This low-lying nation is subject to damage wrought by sea level changes, typhoons and tornadoes.  Rising sea levels due to global warming is posing a real threat to Kiribati and the issues of stemming the tide and deciding which islands to save and which ones to relocate whole communities are huge.

Kiribati has few natural resources and relies mostly on fishing and the sale of fishing rights. Physical remoteness and lack of access to technology and markets are impediments to the development of Kiribati, and the outer islands are particularly vulnerable. 

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And from the Operation World site...

The once-strong Congregational Church (Kiribati Protestant) is in slow decline and losing members to other groups. The theological college in Tarawa is not evangelical. Pray for a return to the Bible. Nominalism and syncretism with traditional spiritist practices are all too common.

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If you hunt around for photos of Kiribati you will find lots of beautiful tropical island images which belie the poverty and problems faced by this nations.  A search for Kiribati plus Global Warming or Climate Change show things in a more realistic light.