Friday, April 30, 2010

P.G. Wodehouse

I also discovered P.G. Wodehouse on holidays, picking up A Damsel in Distress*, after reading a recommendation.

I have been ignorant of Wodehouse up till now, but it turns out he was an extremely profilic writer, publishing over 60 books until his death in 1975.

He is very clever and funny, and I loved his turn of phrase. His books all appear to be set in the early 20th C in England, with servants & lords, etc. Seems that all his books end well too - all the loose ends tied up and everyone lives happily ever after.

I'm so glad I picked it up (and also the next one I found at the library, Doctor Sally). I will now keep Wodehouse in mind as a source of light enjoyable holiday reading, easily read in a day or so. Something to lighten the mind in between the heavier novels!

* It seems you can download the whole book here

Monday, April 26, 2010

Calvin - Chapter 5

Chapter 5: The Knowledge of God shines forth in the fashioning of the universe and the continuing government of it

This chapter is a bit longer and a bit heavier - took me a few goes to get my head around it, and I'm not yet convinced I have yet but here goes!

Not only has God clearly planted the seed of religion in all men (which we saw in Chapter 3), he has also "revealed himself and daily discloses himself in the whole workmanship of the universe" (p52):
wherever you cast your eyes, there is no spot in the universe, wherein you cannot discern at least some sparks of his glory. You cannot in one glance survey this most vast and beautiful system of the universe, in its wide expanse, without being completely overwhelmed by the boundless force of its brightness ... the skillful ordering of the universe is for us a sort of mirror in which we can contemplate God, who is otherwise invisible (ch 5, pt 1, p52-3)

Then, if we are willing to look - we can see than mankind itself is proof of God's amazing creativity. Sadly however, such a fact does not make us turn to God:
They [men] have within themselves a workshop graced with God's unnumbered work and, at the same time, a storehouse overflowing within inestimable riches. They ought, then, to break forth into praises of him but are actually puffed up and swollen with all the more pride. (Ch 5, pt 4, p55)
I do always find it astonishing when people encounter the miracles of the human body and it's work and order that they conclude that it all 'just happened'. It seems to me much easier to believe in a creator who fashioned it to be that way:
For nothing is more preposterous than to enjoy the very remarkable gifts that attest the divine nature within us, yet to overlook the Author who gives them to us at our asking. (Ch 5, pt 6, p58-9)

Calvin goes on say that our knowledge of God should change us:
we are called to a knowledge of God: not that knowledge which, content with empty speculation, merely flits in the brain, but that which will be sound and fruitful if we duly perceive it, and if it takes root in the heart. ch 5, pt 9, (p61-2)
and it should arouse us to worship God, and to encourage us to the hope of the future life.

Sadly, mankind fail to know and worship God and therefore fall into superstition and confusion. He has a not-so-subtle dig at philosophers at this point, who "act like utter fools". I knew there was a reason I hated philosophy at college! Idolatry abounds when we fail to know God:
For as rashness and superficiality are joined to ignorance and darkness, scarcely a single person has ever been found who did not fashion for himself an idol or spectre in place of God. (ch 5, pt 12, p65)

At this point Calvin acknowledges that the manifestation of God in nature is in vain - I was waiting for this!
It is therefore in vain that so many burning lamps shine for us in the workmanship of the universe to show forth the glory of its Author. Although they bathe us wholly in their radiance, yet they can of themselves in no way lead us into the right path (ch 5, pt 14, p68)
However, we are without excuse, for the fault is ours for not being able to see God in his creation:
For at the same time as we have enjoyed a slight taste of the divine from contemplation of the universe, having neglected the true God, we raise up in his stead dreams and specters of our own brains, and attribute to anything else than the true source the praise of righteousness, wisdom, goodness and power. (ch 5, pt 15, p69)

Next chapter (6) sounds like we will be getting more to the point - scripture is needed for anyone who wants to know God. Looking forward to it!

One-to-one: Chapter 1

This series was originally posted on In Tandem, a blog for ministry wives

One-to-one: A Discipleship Handbook

Chapter 1: What is one-to-one work?

One-to-one ministry can be incredibly varied – it can be reading the bible with an unbeliever, training a potential leader and encouraging a new or struggling Christian. It can be highly structured with a time of bible reading and prayer, or more informal as people chat over a coffee or while out walking. The common factor is “the idea of pointing someone to Jesus, to encourage them to trust and obey the gospel of Christ”. (p1)

As we saw last week, the definition de Witt uses is:
one Christian taking the initiative with another individual to help them to know Christ better and obey him more fully, through studying the Scriptures, prayer (for and with them) and sharing one’s life with them – and leaving the results to God. (p2)
She acknowledges that in this relationship it is more normal for one person to have more knowledge and experience as a Christian from which the other can learn. I found this distinction helpful for as I read this book, it didn’t always easily fit into the framework of a peer relationship.

De Witt notes that as we look at Scripture, there are many commands of how the community of believers are to serve one another – encouraging, loving, instructing, building up, spurring on, praying, etc. From these commands we get a strong idea that the Christian life is corporate:

God’s plan is that we live and grow as Christian together. But this only happens as we each focus on other individuals, seeking to help, encourage, teach and so on. Sadly we are often rather poor at this. Our relationships with other Christians so easily end up focusing on sport, home improvements, or the latest disaster with our children, rather than on Christ” (p5)
What goals should we have in one-to-one work?

1. Witnessing to non-Christians – teaching and modelling the gospel and praying for them

2. Growing Christians in their faith:
  • helping them stand firm in Jesus and mature to be more like him
  • to know God better through his word
  • to grow in prayerfulness
  • to address issues of confusion, lifestyle or wrong expectations
3. Seeing individuals equipped to serve others in the body of Christ.

Using the language of Ephesians 1,
We want people to be rooted and established in Christ, confident in their faith and growing in love and godliness as they know God better, so that the body of Christ is built up and matured as members serve one another, so that God, being seen and worshipped for who he really is, is glorified. (p14)
And, if we still need convincing – she lists the main advantages of one-to-one work:
  • understanding – there is more time to study passages and doctrines in depth and ensure understanding of them
  • application - can have deeper and more personal application than in a group setting
  • example – can actually see another Christian as they live out the Christian life, in its joys and struggles
  • accountability – it is a safe environment to share struggles
  • training – a great opportunity to train others in preparing bible studies, talks, or in doing one-to-one ministry themselves

Friday, April 23, 2010

Guernsey Literary ...

One of the books I read on holidays was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

There has been overwhelmingly positive feedback about this book, to the extent that I wondered if it would live up to the hype. For me, it did. It is an absolute delight.

It is a book written entirely as a series of letters, centered around the main character, Juliet, an author living in London in 1946. The letters are between her and her friends, her publisher (Sidney) and members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, one of whom starts the correspondence writing to her out of the blue.

It is clever, gentle, funny and also poignant, covering the times of the occupation of Guernsey by Germany and then the post-war events of 1946. It is one of those books that you don't really want to to end and then you need to pause before picking up the next book to let it sink in.

Highly recommended.

Monday, April 19, 2010

One-to-one: Introduction

This series was originally posted on In Tandem, a blog for ministry wives

One-to-one: A Disicpleship Handbook

De Witt sets up the ‘why’ and ‘what’ of this book in the introduction. She starts with the great commission in Matthew’s gospel:
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20)
For most people, key turning points in faith or becoming disciples came about because of individuals who influenced them, cared for them, prayed for them and taught them the bible.
The kingdom of God advances one person at a time as individuals are born again by God’s spirit and increasingly transformed into the likeness of Christ. (xv-xvi).
She says that this book was born out of the conviction that many more Christians need to be exercising a personal ministry of reaching out to others – to be teaching and modelling the gospel. This one-to-one work is:
one Christian taking the initiative with another individual to help them to know Christ better and obey him more fully, through studying the scriptures, prayer (for and with them) and sharing one’s life with them – and leaving the results to God. (xvi)
I really liked this definition – including the acceptance and knowledge that the results of such things are up to God, not ourselves.

As the book goes on, de Witt will cover how to read the bible with someone, how to pray with someone, just being a friend and also matters of confidentiality, counselling, etc.

Hopefully this has whetted your appetite to hone your skills at one-to-one ministry!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A little earthquake

Apparently the rumbling and shaking I felt at 11:30 last night was an earthquake. (I thought it was a car bomb far away*)

No damage reported and it was pretty small, bringing only some general interest for locals and the creation of a facebook group. However, but it does make you remember those in Chile, China, Haiti & elsewhere who are still struggling to recover from the disastrous earthquakes that have hit them.

* I realise to reach such a conclusion living in Adelaide does suggest that I have been watching too much Spooks and 24 of late!

Monday, April 12, 2010


Perhaps you are interested in meeting with someone one-to-one to read God's word together, pray and encourage one another?

If so, you would do well to read One-to-one: A Discipleship Handbook by Sophie de Witt. She defines one-to-one ministry as:
one Christian taking the initiative with another individual to help them to know Christ better and obey him more fully, through studying the scriptures, prayer (for and with them) and sharing one’s life with them – and leaving the results to God. (xvi)
I am currently working through a series on it on in tandem. (which has been transferred here to musings).

It's well worth your while, as the foreword by Rico Tice says:
If you understand this book and put it’s principles into practice ... you’ll be absolute gold dust in any church family. (xiii)
It's always nice to be considered gold!

A new book series!

This series was originally posted on In Tandem, a blog for ministry wives

Our book series for Term 2 will be on One-to-one: A Discipleship Handbook, by Sophie de Witt.

There is every chance as a minister’s wife that you either want to read the bible with others or that you are expected to! However, as many of us will openly testify, just because we have a role does not mean we feel we have the skills to perform that role. You might think:
  • I would love to help that new Christian along in her walk of faith, but I have no idea how to do it
  • There are some key people that should be trained as leaders, but how could I do that?
  • A younger woman has asked me to read the bible with her – help! Where do we start, what do we read, what should I say...??
Well, search no more – this book will help you with all the basics of one-to-one ministry. As Rico Tice says in the foreword,
If you understand this book and put it’s principles into practice ... you’ll be absolute gold dust in any church family. (xiii)
If, on the other hand, you have been doing one-to-one ministry for years, this book will help to ensure that you are keeping on target, making reading God’s word & prayer the primary focus of your time with others. It will also be a great resource as you seek to train others to do one-to-one ministry.

Therefore, it’s relevant for all of us – so why don’t you grab a copy, and join us as we start our next book series, beginning next week.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Calvin - Chapter 4

Chapter 4: This knowledge is either smothered and corrupted, partly by ignorance, partly by malice

Last time in chapter 3, we saw how God has implanted a knowledge of himself in mankind. This time we see that it is not a true knowledge.
God has shows a seed if religion in all men. But scarcely one man in a hundred is met with who fosters it ... and none in whom it ripens ... all degenerate from the true knowledge of him. And so it happens that no real piety remains in the world. (ch IV, pt 1, pg 47)

Some of the ways the knowledge of God in the world is false are:

1. Through superstition, or a willing change of your view of God
in seeking God, miserable men do not rise above themselves as they should, but measure him by the yardstick of their own carnal stupidity; and neglect sound investigation; thus out of curiosity they fly off into empty speculations (ch IV, pt 1, pg 47). Cathy liked this one too!
As a result they are worshipping a figment of their imagination.

2. Men consciously turn away from God, often as a result of "insolent and habitual sinning". Don't we know that to be true?!

3. Fashioning God to our own whim, trying to make him fit in with our preferences.
But they do not realize that true religion ought to be conformed to God's will as to a universal rule; that God remains ever like himself. and is not a specter or a phantasm to be transformed according to anyone's whim. (ch IV, pt 3, p 49).
We cannot fashion ourselves a God how we want him to be, rather He is who He is, whether we like it or not.

4. Hypocrisy - although following a semblance of religion or religious piety, one continues to life their life in sin and ignorance of God.
For where they ought to have remained consistently obedient throughout life, they boldly rebel against him in almost all their deeds, and are zealous to placate him with merely a few paltry sacrifices. Where they ought to serve him in sanctity of life and integrity of heart, they trump up frivolous trifles and worthless little observances with which to win his favor. (ch IV, pt 4, p51)

In the end, people who fall into these categories have not been ignorant of God, but have held themselves back from him by stubbornness. Something we can all be guilty of! A stubborn refusal to accept God on his terms, who He is, what He has done, why He has done it and that we need it.

Perhaps this Easter is a good time to reflect again on what God has done in Christ and how much we need it.

For April - Chapters 5 & 6