Our Miscarriage, Our Marriage, and Our Master

Dear Babis,

I know today is a tough day for you darling.

It’s a tough day for both of us really.

I know today is really a reminder of what could’ve been. It’s a day that should be filled with love, joy and happiness. Instead it’s become a day of sadness, possibilities and tears.

I’m sorry it hasn’t turned out the way we would’ve hoped.

I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge (1)

I remember we were so excited when we found out you were pregnant again. It was a fun few weeks knowing what we knew, all on our own. Our little secret was something we talked about each night, thinking of what the future might hold for the little creature being created inside of you. For me, I was really looking forward to telling the family, and very excited for our first becoming a big sister.

But that week in early February kind of changed everything, didn’t it?

That happy week, where we were going to tell the family, turned sour after the scan and multiple visits to the hospital.

When it all went down, so to speak, it was a devastating time for both of us. I know you felt it and continue to feel it more deeply than I. I just hope I can continue to love and support you in the way that you need.

Today especially.

I reckon the miscarriage is probably one of the tougher things we’ve been through together. It’s been a painful and difficult experience for us, but one that has helped us grow stronger and closer together. I mean, the marriage course this year has also helped us, but this really did bring things into focus.

Having been through this I’m so thankful that the Lord provided a few glimmers of hope and encouragement in the lead up to the miscarriage, and which continue to sustain us at times.

Surely that Sunday sermon has to be the most relevant sermon we’ve ever listened to together. I truly believe the Lord provided sustaining grace for us when we needed it most, particularly through Psalm 91:1-2, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most high will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust’.” I know this passage, and the preaching of it, continues to give us a sense of His sovereign hand holding us, and a peace despite the hurt.

I pray it gives you that grace and peace today.

I know we feel the loss of possibility, the loss of opportunity, the loss of what would have been. I know it still hurts, and will continue to hurt, no matter how many more kids we may have. But I’m thankful that despite whatever circumstances we find ourselves in the Lord is with us and is giving us joy and comfort.

So darling, I love you. And I’m thankful that we’ve been able to grow closer since this happened.

I’m thankful that we’ve been able to walk through this together, and will keep walking despite its challenges.

I know its been one of the more rotten years because of this, but despite this brokenness we cling to God, praying with more clarity and regularity for the brokenness throughout the world.

I know you would like to know what that little creature would have turned out to be but unfortunately we can’t know that. But darl, I’m thankful we can continue to talk openly about the miscarriage and remind ourselves that despite our brokenness Jesus is the one who makes us whole and the who will bring us the comfort, peace, and healing to our situation. He did that in the first week of February and he’ll do it again today, as we remember the one that got away.

Love,
Jonny.

A DIY Discipleship Plan

We are in the fortunate position of living in a Christian resource-rich period of time. No other generation has had such access to the teaching of the Bible and other resources that come with it. Only a few years ago it was impossible to hear any sermon other than the one you heard while attending your local church. Now, I can listen to one sermon on the way to work and another on the way home. That’s crazy.

The amount of books, podcasts, music, articles and blog posts, devotionals, and different versions of the Bible give a plethora of options in helping us to understand and know God better. But, it can also cause a tremendous amount of confusion because there is so much choice.

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Therefore, I find it helpful to think about how I’m going to grow in my understanding of God and develop as a follower of Jesus by having a plan. In previous years I’ve attempted to read the Bible through in a year. There are many good plans to help with this and I find committing to reading four chapters a day the most consistent method. Having said this, I haven’t been overly successful lately.

Because I enjoy learning, particularly through reading and listening, I’ve decided to approach my discipleship development in a different way for 2015. Rather than have broad goals of reading the Bible through in a year and praying regularly I’ve sought to make them a bit more specific.

In structuring this plan I’ve broken my development into four areas; biblical theology, historical theology, systematic theology, and practical theology. Within these four areas I then have specific resources I’d like to read or listen to at different times throughout the year. See below as an example:

Biblical Theology

  • Read the book of Jeremiah 5 times
  • Read a commentary on Jeremiah
  • Reach the book of Hebrews 5 times
  • Read a commentary on Hebrews

Historical Theology

Systematic Theology

  • Read 3-4 books on the topic of ‘Salvation’ (Do you have anything to recommend in this area?)

Practical Theology

There are many resources to read, watch, and listen to. There are conferences to go to and church to attend. There are small groups to join and other community activities to be part of. There is no doubt that discipleship is communal. I don’t want to negate this. But on a personal level I also want to continue to grow in my knowledge of God through his Word, what He’s done in history, through the teaching of others and then seek to apply it.

It’s at least a plan, and I like plans, even if they don’t always get achieved the way I think they should be. So next year I’m going in with a plan to develop as a disciple. What about you?

John Wesley On Love

John Wesley, in his sermon On Love from 1 Corinthians 8:3, “Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing”, articulates a love that must be rooted in a love for God for any of our works to be considered good. This is a good reminder of how we are to have a deep deep love for God grounding us in our love for others. An insight into the kind of love, and attitude of love, we should strive for when serving others.

Though I should give all substance of my house to feed the poor, though I should do so upon mature choice and deliberation; though I should spend my life in dealing it out to them with my own hands, yea, and that from a principle of obedience; though I should suffer from the same view, not only reproach and shame, not only bonds and imprisonment, and all this by my own continued act and deed, not accepting deliverance; but, moreover, death itself; yea, death inflicted in a manner the most terrible to nature: yet all this, if I have not love, [“the love of God, and the love of all mankind shed abroad in my heart by the Holy Ghost given unto me”] it profiteth me nothing.

A Radically Ordinary Faith

There is much written about the radical nature of following Jesus.

The call to come and follow Him.

The call to take up your cross.

The call to be a radical disciple.

Whatever way you put it Christianity can be portrayed as some type of hyper-enthusiastic, always active, and amazingly awesome life.

And then you have to clean the dishes currently lying in the sink, change the babies nappy, make your bed, or put the rubbish out.

That’s not amazing.

That’s mundane.

That’s ordinary.

A Radically Ordinary Faith

And what do you do with a verse like 1 Thessalonians 4:11, “…make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you…”?

Sounds pretty ordinary to me.

There can be a tendency to believe we’re not ‘radical’ enough in our faith,  that we’re not doing enough radical stuff with our lives. The implication of this is that we’re not being obedient. We’re not living up to the kind of discipleship required of us as followers of Jesus.

But when we think this way we begin to diminish the life God has given us.

If God has created us, made us who we are, and has us in the place we currently find ourselves in, then perhaps we can trust that our faith is ‘radical’ enough.

This isn’t to be used as an excuse for laziness, a reason to neglect serving others, and avoiding any form of growth in our faith. But, our faith must be something that relates to and be relevant to our daily lives.

I always find it inspiring to hear of the adventures and opportunities missionaries have as they serve God overseas. It’s inspiring to see people get involved in missions, church planting, and other evangelism initiatives. Every now and then I get an email from a university worker working with international students. The stories that are shared are quite incredible, hearing of the way people are attracted to hearing more about faith and understanding the Bible for themselves. Some of these stories are very encouraging.

And so it’s inspiring to see the work people are doing, and even more exciting to see people become interested in knowing more about Jesus. But I’m not sure they’d tell you they’re being radical in their faith because of the work they’re doing, and neither will a missionary or a pastor. The work is often very ordinary.

And so what does a radical faith look like for freshly minted teaching graduate who is in the middle of a long first year, struggling to find time to read their Bible because the nightly preparation takes so long. Or the plumber who has been dealing with crap all day, trying to spend time with the family among the household chores. Or the mum who looks after the children, who is waiting for her partner to arrive home from work in order to help her out.

What does ‘radical’ faith mean for them?

It may be me in my most cynical moments, where I totally turn deaf to this call to be radical, but I’m not sure whether telling people to be more radical is helpful. To me, it adds another burden, another layer of guilt, where I end up feeling my faith isn’t good enough and I need to do more. I see the need to make the call for people to be more radical in their faith, many of us aren’t. But at the same time, what does it mean for my faith to be relevant in the mundane?

What do you think?

The Eighth Sin: Apathy

I’m inspired by today’s The Dailypost topic “The Eighth Sin”.

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First, I’m intrigued that sin is still talked about. Outside of the church I don’t hear too many people talking about sin. It should be talked about more. I’m glad to see it on the radar here in this little exercise.

Second, what came to mind when thinking about what might be the eighth cardinal sin was apathy.

When reflecting on the past couple of weeks I can’t help but think we’re an apathetic people.

This is an apathy that is best wrapped up in the saying, ‘Out of sight, out of mind’. But because of the information age we’re in there is no real excuse for being out of sight. My social media feeds are filled with people sharing articles and posts written about the persecution of Christians in Iraq and the terrible conflict in Gaza. Yet, as I reflect further I notice that it’s only a handful of people that are talking about this, or commenting or liking.

I don’t expect everyone to have their say. For some it’s not a forum where people wish to discuss or even mention their views on anything. Yet, that is one of the main reasons we are so apathetic.

Apathy allows us some emotional distance from what is going on for others. Apathy means we don’t make a stand when we should. Apathy means we don’t give a voice to the voiceless. We let injustice run its course.

To be apathetic means we don’t care. And that’s sad.

Not everyone can care about everything. That’s impossible in such a complex and issue-ridden world. But on things that aren’t ‘issues’ but are to do with the life and death of human beings, then perhaps we do need to care. Perhaps we need to shake off the comfort and ease of apathy. Perhaps we need to confess we are sinners and one sin that affects us is our apathetic nature.

Thankfully sin is forgiven, even our apathy. Yet this doesn’t mean we don’t have to change. Just as the sin of apathy is forgiven through the person and work of Jesus Christ, the ability to change and work toward a more just world, a world where the voiceless are heard, is achieved through the continual trust in Him and His rule.

“N” As A Social Media Movement

This past week has been horrific in world affairs, from the continuing Israel/Gaza conflict to the MH17 disaster.

On various social media outlets over the last 24 hours there have also been reports of Christian persecution in Iraq due to the over-powering presence of the ISIS group.

As a showing of support with fellow believers in this part of the world a number of friends have begun putting the Arabic letter ‘N’ as their profile picture. I’ve joined in as well and would encourage you to do the same.

arabicNazarene

The reason for this is because the Arabic letter ‘N’ (noon) for ‘nasara’ or ‘nazarene’ is being written on Christian homes in Iraq by the strict Muslims of ISIS. This is a warning sign, telling Christians to convert to Islam, pay a subjugation tax, or expect their death. Many of these believers have taken a fourth option, fleeing. Now, there are very few Christians in this area at all.

While it’s become a small movement, and some would say doesn’t bring much change, I believe it (1) highlights the need for people to be educated about the current situation and (2) reminds people to pray for them. At least we can do that.

The original article I read about this idea was from David Ould’s blog, while there are also a number of other outlets writing about this issue, including The Telegraph here, and Murray from Mentone Baptist has a few reflections here.

God and Vocation

Aimee Byrd recently wrote a little post about vocation, with a pretty cool story to go with it, and used a Gene Veith quote. I thought it was relevant to yesterday’s post on where God is.

…vocation is played out not just in the extraordinary acts—the great things we will do for the Lord, the great success we envision in our careers someday—but in the realm of the ordinary. Whatever we face in the often humdrum present—washing the dishes, buying groceries, going to work, driving the kids somewhere, hanging out with our friends—this is the realm into which we have been called and in which our faith bears fruit in love. We are to love our neighbors—that is, the people who are actually around us, as opposed to the abstract humanity of the theorists. These neighbors constitute the relationships that we are in right now, and our vocation is for God to serve them through us. (p59)

Where Is God?

When on a short-term mission trip the end of each day is usually set aside for a team debrief. In this setting I often ask the question “Where have you seen God today?”

It is a question I find hard to answer myself.

Recently I’ve been reflecting on how some people seem to be able to answer this question of God’s presence easily while others don’t.

I’m one of the people that don’t.

It’s not that God isn’t around. I know He is. In fact, it would be rather depressing if God wasn’t around and you couldn’t see His hand in the world.

But in the daily grind, while eating breakfast, working in the office, looking after the kids, fiddling with our phones, and doing what we do it’s often hard to spot God’s presence. It’s not like each day is filled with overwhelming awe for life and the tasks to do during the day. Many days are similar, many days a filled with challenges as well as joys.

I can’t say God is in the joys without saying He’s in the challenges either. To say God is only in the joy-filled moments of life not only cuts Him out of much of the ordinary but also downplays the importance of His presence in the challenging times.

In some respects it’s about perspective. A greater awareness of God will bring a greater awareness of His presence in our days.

I was reminded of this as I read Ephesians 1-2 this morning. Paul talks in such lofty terms but reminds us of what He has done for us through His Son. Much of the passage is to do with what God has granted us through the work of His Son. And while the passage doesn’t talk directly about His presence in the world we can see the way He does work and so must be working today. The fact that He has chosen, predestined, adopted, blessed, redeemed, forgiven, lavished upon, made known, and given an inheritance to His people assumes He’s still doing that today. And if He’s still doing that today then He’s still at work, which means He’s still present.

So where have I seen God today? All around.

In what exactly? In the people I talk to. In the shopping centre I visit. In the driver I pass on the freeway. In the cafe I sit in. In the home I live in.

I’m not sold on the idea that He is in everything, like in the salt and pepper shakers I have in front of me. But His presence is in this world and I need to be more observant of it.

So, what about you? Where have you seen God today?

Spurgeon on Productivity

“The way to do a great deal, is to keep on doing a little. The way to do nothing at all, is to be continually resolving that you will do everything.”

by Charles Spurgeon

The Syrian Crisis

Damascus is my favourite city in the world.

by Rosemary Sheel
by Rosemary Sheel

Over the last ten years I would’ve visited this wonderful city nearly a dozen times. It’s history and culture captivated me since the day I first arrived. To walk the souk filled with shopkeepers attempting to sell their wares and see so many people in one place enjoying themselves is a vivid picture in my mind. So too is walking the street called Straight, where St Paul once walked. To visit Ananias’ house with the small staircase into the small two-roomed house now decked out out as a church.  These memories and many more are what I think of when I think of Damascus.

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Now, this image has been changed and I can’t imagine how the people of Syria cope with the destruction of their country.

The Syrian Crisis has wrecked havoc for Syrians and the wider Middle East as people seek to cope with current situation.

Last night on ABC’s Foreign Correspondent there was an episode about the refugee camps in Jordan. It tells the story of Syrians who are now “making a life for themselves” inside these camps. The episode gives an amazing picture of life within the camps and what these people need to deal with on a daily basis.

I’d encourage you to watch it and become aware of what’s going on.