Monday, August 31, 2009

Respectable Sins - ch 1-5

Respectable Sins, Jerry Bridges - ch 1-5

Welcome to this new series!

These first 5 chapters of the book helpfully introduce the idea of 'respectable' sins - those we tend to worry less about as Christians because we ignore or tolerate them. Of course the whole point is that sin is sin, and we must be prepared to have the word of God move in us in every area of our lives.

Chapter 1: Ordinary Saints. Bridges looks at how Christians, all Christians, can be described as saints, meaning that we are set apart by God.
In the biblical sense of the term, sainthood is not a status of achievement and character but a state of being — an entirely new condition of life brought about by the Spirit of God. Paul describes it as “[turning] from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God” (Acts 26:18) and again as having been “delivered . . . from the domain of darkness and transferred . . . to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13)... (p14)
He then goes on to speak about how even though we are set apart by God, we still struggle in the flesh with sin:
The Bible has a word for conduct unbecoming a saint. It is sin. And just as “conduct unbecoming an officer” covers a wide range of misconduct, so the word sin covers a wide range of misbehavior. It covers everything from gossip to adultery, from impatience to murder. Obviously, there are degrees of seriousness of sin. But in the final analysis, sin is sin. It is conduct unbecoming a saint. (p16)

In Chapter 2: The Disappearance of Sin, Bridges talks about how the idea of sin is almost completely absent from society and in most churches. Not only that, but even in evangelical churches, where the idea of sin remains,
it has, in many instances, been deflected to those outside our circles who commit flagrant sins... It's easy for us to condemn those obvious sins while virtually ignoring our own sins of gossip, pride, envy, bitterness, and lust, or even our lack of those gracious qualities that Paul calls the fruit of the Spirit (p19)...

The result, then, is that for many morally upright believers, the awareness of personal sin has effectively disappeared from their consciences. But it has not disappeared from the sight of God. (p 22)
This is quite a challenge. To see how quickly we can judge outsiders for their actions, but rarely turn the examination around to include ourselves.

In Chapter 3: The Malignancy of Sin, Bridges addresses how serious sin really is.
It does not matter whether our sin is scandalous or respectable, all our sin is sinful, only sinful and altogether sinful. Whether it is large or small in our eyes, it is heinous in the sight of God. God forgives our sin because of the shed blood of Christ, but He does not tolerate it. Instead, every sin that we commit, even the subtle sin that we don't even think about, was laid upon Christ as He bore the curse of God in our place. And herein lies chiefly the malignancy of sin. Christ suffered because of our sins. (p30)

In Chapter 4: The Remedy for Sin, Bridges now brings the gospel to bear on sin. In everything - facing sin, admitting to sin and being willing to address sin - we must always have the gospel as the focus.
  • we must remember the gospel is for sinners, and we are still sinners - we still need the gospel
  • the gospel also frees me to face my sin, for I have the assurance that my sin is forgiven
  • the gospel motivates and energizes me to deal with my sin, we must 'put it to death'
  • the assurance we receive in the gospel 1) assures me that God is for me, not against me and 2) gives me a great gratitude for what he had done and is doing for me through Christ. This gratitude helps us to desire to deal with sin. (from pp 34-6).
He recommends the practice of 'preaching the gospel to yourself every day', and gives a list of bible verses which one could use to encourage themselves with the promise of God's forgiveness for the repentant sinner.

I like this chapter - he encourages us to be honest and face our sins, but all in the light of the grace of God, by which we have been forgiven.

In Chapter 5: The Power of the Holy Spirit, Bridges now turns to the way the Holy Spirit can free us from the power of sin. He coins the term 'dependent responsibility':
that is, we are responsible before God, to obey His Word, to put to death the sins in our lives, both the so-called acceptable sins and the obviously not acceptable ones. At the same time, we do not have the ability within ourselves to carry out this responsibility. We are in fact totally dependent upon the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. In this sense, we are both responsible and dependent. (p41).
Bridges speaks of a number of ways in which the Holy Spirit may work in us:
  • to bring us conviction of sin, opening our eyes to see areas of sin in our lives
  • to enable us and empower us to deal with our sin
  • He even works without our conscious involvement - even on our darkest days, we can know that the Spirit is still working within us.
  • by bringing into our lives circumstance that are designed to cause us to grow spiritually: "if we are prone to sinful anger, there will be circumstances that trigger our anger" (pp 42-44)
He finishes the chapter with these encouraging words:
Remember, Christ has already paid the penalty for our sins and won for us the forgiveness of them. And then He has sent His Holy Spirit to live within us to enable us to deal with them. (p45).

I like how Bridges has done these chapters, he has pointed out that we are still sinful and that sin still reigns on this earth, and he has pointed out how serious it is. However, he has not left us without hope - the reminder that Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty for our sins, and that the Spirit dwells within us.

Things to think about:
1. Do you agree that society has generally forgotten about or ignored the existence of sin?
2. Do you struggle to believe that sin is really so bad?
3. Which 'large' sins do you quickly find in others?
4. What 'respectable' sins do you ignore in yourself?

5. What bible verses could you choose to remind yourself of the gospel & that the Spirit dwells within you?

This post turned out to be quite long, so I will do chapter 6 separately on Friday!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Children's Authors - Allan (& Janet) Ahlberg

Allan & Janet Ahlberg, a married author-illustrator team, produced some beautiful books together in the 1970s & 80s, which continue to be popular with children and parents today.

The two we know and love are Peepo and Each Peach Pear Plum.

Peepo, a book for babies, plays on the idea of I Spy, with each page showing a baby at different points throughout the day and what he sees:
Here's a little baby
One, two, three,
Stands in his cot
What does he see? PEEPO! (turn the page)

He sees his father sleeping
In the big brass bed
And his mother too
With a hairnet on her head.
He see the shadows moving
On the bedroom wall
And the sun at the window
And his teddy
and his ball.
It is just delightful, the rhythm of the words fit perfectly and the illustrations are beautiful and full of detail. They are set in post-war Britain (in fact, Allan has stated that he is the Peepo baby - it is based on his childhood)*. As time goes on, some of the features of the illustrations are harder to relate to (eg - "his father in the doorway, with a bucketful of coal"), but babies and toddlers will never know. We only discovered this book with our second when she was a baby and I bought it when we had Miss 2 - we read it all the time, and she says "Peepo" in all the right places! I think this is my favourite baby book.

Even more closely linked to I Spy is Each Peach Pear Plum. Here they have taken all of the nursery rhyme characters and put them together in one book, and from page to page you have to find the next character:
Each Peach Pear Plum
I spy Tom Thumb. (over page)

Tom Thumb in the cupboard
I spy Mother Hubbard

Again the illustrations are beautiful and you can have fun finding the person hiding in each picture.

Great books.

* From the Penguin books website

Friday, August 28, 2009

Craft time

We were inspired by the Play School craft this morning and so we copied it - paper plate animals. They fit all my key criteria for craft - no glue, no paint and quick! We made pigs: A family of hens or ducks depending on your mood... A sheep and a toddler version of a cat... A horse
It was easy, fun and the kids loved them.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Kids CDs

We have recently discovered the two Justine Clarke children's CDs. If you are like me (with young children and lots of time in the car), you tire quickly of endless Wiggles, Colin Buchanan and Play School CDs. I like them all, but can only hear them so often, so it's nice to have some variety.

These two CDs are good ones to add in to the collection. They are fun songs, easy to sing-along to and have some very catchy tunes.

A lot of these songs are also being sung on Play School at the moment, so the kids get excited when they hear them there too.

Don't you notice the massive difference though between the subject matter of Christian kids CDs vs secular ones?

For example, Colin Buchanan has some really complex theological ideas in his songs, but they are presented in a way that is easy to learn and understand. On the other hand, secular kids CDs have pretty much a set range of subjects - colours, numbers, rainbows, animals, food and the weather! It's nice to have both - but I can definitely only handle so much, and then 'Mummy's music' gets some more airtime!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Respectable Sins

I think it's time for a new book series!

So, I am going to spend some time looking at Respectable Sins, by Jerry Bridges:
Have Christians become so preoccupied with the major sins of our society that we have lost sight of our need to deal with our own more subtle sins? Jerry Bridges returns to his trademark theme of holiness and addresses a dozen clusters of specific “acceptable” sins that we tend to tolerate in ourselves - such as jealousy, anger, pride, unthankfulness, and judgmentalism. (from the back cover)
I have only just started it myself, but it promises to be a journey requiring some serious self-examination, repentance and change.

If you would like to join me, get your hands on a copy and we'll read through it together.

Next week I'll look at chapters 1-6 as a unit, as they address sin and how we view it, before he gets to specific sins. Don't be put off with the idea of 6 chapters, it's a quick read!

Chapter 1 can be downloaded here.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Children's Authors - Lynley Dodd

Can you tell from the books I review that our family really like the rhyming ones!

Lynley Dodd, a prolific author and illustrator from New Zealand has delighted our kids with her clever rhymes and funny animals.

One of her more famous series are about little dog, Hairy Maclary and the mischief he gets up to. Our favourite has probably been Hairy Maclary and Zachary Quack, so much so that Miss 3 could recite whole parts of it:

It was drowsily warm,
with dozens of bees
lazily buzzing through flowers and trees.
Hairy Maclary decided to choose
a space in the shade
for his afternoon
He dozily dreamed
as he lay on his back
pittery pattery,
skittery scattery
round the corner
Zachary Quack.
She has a lovely way of repeating the same phrases through a book, so children through repetition learn the words and when to say them.

She has other dog characters too - we quite like Schnitzel von Krumm.

Dodd also has a few cat series, one of which is Slinky Malinki:
Slinky Malinki
was blacker than black,
a stalking and lurking
adventurous cat.
He had bright yellow eyes,
a warbling wail
and a kink at the end
of his very long tail.
And in Open the Door - Slinky Malinki and Stickybeak Syd (a budgie?), explore a house by opening doors, leaving mayhem behind them.

There is even a Christmas book with Slinky Malinki: Christmas Crackers - showing how he attacks the Christmas tree. It's fun reading at Christmas time.

Another thing I love about these books is that Dodd does not hesitate to use big words, and she uses a wide range of adjectives to describe things, so the amount of new vocabulary in a book can be huge, but it is introduced through such clever rhyme and clear illustrations that children quickly pick up the meaning.

Besides all of these excellent books about recognisable animals, she also has range of books about pretend animals. There is a real likeness to Dr Seuss with the use of imaginary animals and made-up language.

In The Nickle Nackle Tree, a counting book from 1-14, the tree is full of wild and wonderful birds:
In the Manglemunching Forest there's a Nickle Nackle tree,
Growing Nickle Nackle berries that are red as red can be.
I went to look last Monday; I was too surprised for words
- On every twisty branch there was a jumbly jam of birds.

One Ballyhoo bird, kicking up a din,

Two squawking Scritchet birds with legs so twiggy thin...

A quick search of the web suggests that Dodd has at least 30 books published, and they are easy to get in libraries (in Australia at least).

If you haven't come across them yet with your kids, get some - you are in for a treat!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Reading, not writing

Things have been a little silent here of late.

The main reason is because I am reading lots of books, rather than writing about them!

I'll be back soon with their reviews...

Photo from stock.xchng

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My seventh monsoon

Book Review: My Seventh Monsoon, Naomi Reed

This very powerful book, written by Sydney woman Naomi Reed charts her and her husband's decision to serve God as physiotherapist cross-cultural workers in Nepal over 15 years. She picks up around 1991, where they were first challenged to consider working overseas and follows their decision to go to Nepal as a young married couple, return to Sydney and then go again to Nepal some years later, this time with three young boys. It charts the decisions they made and the realities of life which presented some interesting and difficult times. To quote her from the back of the book:
The seventh monsoon...was the hardest of them all. I sat of the back porch of our Himalayan home and stared as the rain streamed down all around me. I had never felt so hemmed in - by the constant rain, by the effects of the civil war and by the demands of home-school. As I sat there and listened to the pounding on our tin roof, I wondered whether I would make it through. I wondered whether I would cope with another 120 days of rain. And in doing so, I began to long for another season...
She structures the book around 'seasons' - noting how all people face different seasons in their lives, including those of hope, adjustment, expectancy, longing, grief, distraction and thanks; and how God works through all of these seasons. He is there through the hard times and the seemingly easy times - sometimes as comfort, sometimes challenging us to new and hard things, sometimes caring for us in the difficulties and grief that life brings, and sometimes spurring us on in the faith.

I found this to be an incredibly encouraging and challenging read. Naomi has an ability to be able to look back and see God's hand working over time, and as she takes you on that journey with her, you also can see the amazing work of God in all things. It is a journey that covers some wonderful excitements and highs, but also some dreadful griefs and I found myself in tears at some points. She has been extraordinarily open in this book, which is a real gift to the reader.

Obviously, considering the content, it is a book strongly supporting mission. One of the real strengths though was that it never had a feel of superiority - the "we went on the mission field and you didn't" subtext. She acknowledges the challenges for those 'back here', and the reality that things such as parenting are challenging wherever you do them, albeit perhaps for different reasons. This was the reason I found it challenging - she didn't cause feelings of guilt, but rather a challenge to myself to reconsider our own choices and goals.

I won't go into more detail because I think you should read it for yourself!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

At home and not happy - pt 2

A few weeks ago, I had a post about an article in Adelaide's Child, written by a woman who struggles being at home, and was quite honest about it. I didn't emphasise it in my post, but she was quite negative about her husband and the help she receives from him. Jenny has noted a reply in this month's Child magazine, by a man who noted that his wife's similar attitude ended being a catalyst for the end of their marriage.
If I went away on a business trip, it was labeled a 'junket' or 'holiday... House tasks were done by her before I'd even noticed they needed to be done, then I was resented for not doing them. The tension increased steadily, and I started drinking regularly to escape. I was told most days about my lack of contribution, about how easy my life was in comparison to hers, about my ever-growing list of inadequacies. One day, after three years, I couldn't take it anymore ... so I walked out... Our marriage ended on that day, despite subsequent attempts to renegotiate behaviours...

So my advice to those unhappy stay-at-home parents - male or female - is to mentally reframe your situation in a more positive light, and stop thinking it's all about you...It is temporary and will pass, and you'll get your life back. You wanted kids, and this all goes with the territory - don't damage or destroy your relationship because of a temporary situation. And don't forget your partner...
It's a letter that's as open and honest as the original article was, with some helpful counters to it.

As Jenny says, it is certainly a challenge to those of us who are tempted to complain, to realise that our husbands are not the enemy. And (by the way) neither are the kids!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Fifty reasons why Jesus came to die

Book review: Fifty reasons why Jesus came to die, John Piper

I discovered this book around Easter time, when a fellow blogger suggested reading itin the lead up to Easter. I decided to give it a go. I started the week before Easter, and read one 'reason' after each time I read my bible. It took a bit more than 50 days, but not too much more!

It was great. If you are like me you may struggle to articulate 10 reasons why Jesus died, let alone 50! However each one made me see afresh another part of Jesus' death, why it was essential and why I can be so thankful for his sacrifice.

Each reason is only 2 pages long - one open spread (you can see a sample, and download the whole book for free from here). So it could be tempting to read the whole book quite quickly, as the whole book is pretty short. However, I really benefitted from reading only one reason per day. It helped me to focus on that one reason alone and think about it a little more. Another thing which I personally found very helpful was to 'rewrite' the reason in my own words in one sentence. It helped me to clarify my own thoughts on each one.

I found the whole book very helpful, but here are a few highlights:

1. Reasons 9 & 10 - summarised by me as '9 - so that we can be forgiven' and '10 - so that we can be justified'. Now these are two truths I know and trust in. But reading them one day after the other pointed out that:
- being forgiven means that something needs to be forgiven - we are guilty
- being justified declares that someone is just - declared innocent

As Piper put it
Being forgiven implies that I am guilty and my crime is not counted. Being justified implies that I have been tried and found innocent (p38)
I appreciated the two being contrasted so clearly, to me it just highlighted again what Jesus did on the cross, we are both forgiven and justified. Not one or the other, but both. Without going into a theological treatise - perhaps one or the other would have been enough - but Jesus accomplished both.

2. Reason 22 - To bring us to God. Piper explains how the gospel means good news, then asks,
But what is the ultimate good in the good news? It all ends in one thing: God himself. All the words of the gospel lead to him, or they are not gospel. For example, salvation is not good news if it only saves from hell and not for God. Forgiveness is not good news if it only gives relief from guilt and doesn’t open the way to God. Justification is not good news if it only makes us legally acceptable to God but doesn’t bring fellowship with God. Redemption is not good news if it only liberates us from bondage but doesn’t bring us to God. Adoption is not good news if it only puts us in the Father’s family but not in his arms. (p22)
This really struck me - it all has to lead to God, or it goes nowhere.

3. Reason 27 - to become a sympathetic and helpful priest. Piper makes a helpful point here about temptation and how Jesus understands it:
Christ was tempted like every human is tempted. True, he never sinned. But wise people have pointed out that this means his temptations were stronger than ours, not weaker. If a person gives in to temptation, it never reaches its fullest and longest assault. We capitulate while the pressure is still building. But Jesus never did. So he endured the full pressure to the end and never caved. He knows what it is to be tempted with fullest force. (p72)
Jesus does understand our struggles and our temptations, as Hebrews 4:15-16 makes clear:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
4. Reason 39 - To free us from bondage to the fear of death. This chapter had some powerful comments about Satan:
The one lethal weapon he has is the power to deceive us. His chief lie is that self-exaltation is more to be desired than Christ-exaltation, and sin preferable to righteousness. If that weapon could be taken out of his hand, he would no longer have the power of eternal death.

That is what Christ came to do - take that weapon out of Satan's hand. To do this, Christ took our sins on himself and suffered for them. When that happened, they could be used no more by the devil to destroy us. Taunt us? Yes. Mock us? Yes. But damn us? No. Christ bore the curse in our place. Try as he will, Satan cannot destroy us. The wrath of God is removed. His mercy is our shield. And Satan cannot succeed against us. (p96-7)
5. Reason 49 - So that he would be crowned with glory and honour. Piper lifts our eyes to see that Jesus died for his glory, not for ours:
Our happiest moments have not been self-saturated moments, but self-forgetful moments. There have been times when we stood beside the Grand Canyon, or at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, or viewed a stunning sunset over the Sahara, and for a fleeting moment felt the joy of sheer wonder. This is what we were made for. Paradise will not be a hall of mirrors. It will be a display of majesty. And it won’t be ours. (p117)

The only thing that felt odd to me in this book was the introduction, titled "Christ and the Concentration Camps", where he addresses some issues related to the holocaust and Jesus' death. It seemed like a strange way to introduce a book. I suspect Piper is dealing with some issue here for a reason, but I don't really know what the issue is, so it felt a little out of place. I wondered if it would have been better as an appendix.

This book is well worth reading, and reading well.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Children's Authors - Giles Andreae

Another fun children's author for this week - Giles Andreae. We have a number of his books, all in rhyme and we love them.

In a number of books he teamed up with illustrator David Wojtowycz. Many of them use simple rhymes to describe animals.

So Cock-a-doodle-doo! Farmyard Hullabaloo has verses like:

Sometimes I moo while I'm chewing
I hope you don't think that it's rude,
But mooing and chewing are what I like doing.
Do you moo when you chew your food?

And in Commotion in the Ocean, you read:
The crab likes walking sideways
and I think the reason why,
is to make himself look sneaky
And pretend that he's a spy.

I swim with a grin up to greet you,
See how my jaws open wide,
Why don't you come a bit closer?
Please, take a good look inside...

And in Rumble in the Jungle, there are fun verses such as:

The ravenous rhino
Is big, strong and tough,
But his skin is all baggy and flappy,
Which means that there's plenty
Of room for his lunch,
And that makes him terribly happy.

Other books have a story to go with them, such as The Lion who Wanted to Love, the story of Leo the Lion who wanted to make friends with animals rather than eat them:
Deep in the African heartland
Way out on the hot sunny plains,
There lived a small lion who didn't fit in
And Leo was this lion's name

Now lions are usually fierce
And lions are meant to be strong,
But Leo just wanted to love everybody
And play with his friends all day long

Another story (this time with illustrator Guy Parker-Rees) which I love is Giraffes Can't Dance.

This story of Gerald the clumsy giraffe and how he cannot dance with all the animals is just lovely and the ending is great, where he discovers he can dance after all, just to different music. It is bound to appeal to children who also feel left out when they can't do things either. The illustrations are lovely and the rhyming verses are lots of fun.
Now every year in Africa
They hold the Jungle Dance
Where every single animal
Turns up to skip and prance.

And this year when the day arrived
Poor Gerald felt so sad
Because when it came to dancing
He was really very bad.

The final story one we have is The Magic Donkey Ride (illustrated by Vanessa Cabban) - the story of a little boy Flinny getting to ride a magic donkey through the sky.
He ran into the meadow
And he came to Treacle's side
Treacle said, "I'm going to take you
On a magic donkey ride!

Please take off my saddle
It's the heavieset of things."
"I don't believe it!" Flinny shouted,
"Treacle, YOU'VE GOT WINGS!"

Lastly, but I think one of the best is There's a House inside my Mummy. This book (also illustrated by Vanessa Cabban) is one of the best books I have come across for children (aged 1-4ish) to talk about the impending arrival of a new brother or sister, with some realistic observations about how Mummy feels too. When I was pregnant with #3, Mr 4 and Miss 2 wanted me to read this to them almost daily:

There's a house inside my Mummy
Where my little brother grows
Or maybe it's my little sister
No-one really knows...

Sometimes Mummy feels so sick
I don't know what to do,
But if I had a house in me
I'd feel quite poorly too...

I just can't wait to meet him
I hope that he's alright
My Daddy says be patient
As his door is rather tight.

My only sadness with this book is there is no need for me to read it anymore!

As you can probably tell, we love these books. If you have any children near you aged 1-4, buy them some of these, and have lots of fun reading to them.