Friday, 30 October 2009

Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges

The first book I ever studied in a small group was ‘Pursuit of Holiness’ by Jerry Bridges – a gem of a book which I still have. Respectable Sins is an admirable companion.

Immensely readable, the truths contained in it are both easy to grasp and difficult to implement. We are all guilty of sinning but, as Bridges says, we excuse ourselves. This book challenges that attitude: any sin, however, small, is anathema to God and we would do well to develop ‘zero tolerance’ towards the ‘little’ misdemeanours. Sins such as anger, pride, self-righteousness and sins of the tongue are all familiar to us and are sin even when present to a very minor degree. Add to the list ungodliness, anxiety, frustration, discontentment, unthankfulness, an independent spirit, selfishness, inconsiderateness, lack of self-control, judgmentalism, envy, jealousy and worldliness – there is no area of our lives where, if we are honest with ourselves, we can claim to be ‘sin-free’.

Such a long list might seem disheartening, but Jerry Bridges offers encouraging advice, practical help and real stories which give the reader confidence in defeating sin. An accompanying discussion guide, suitable for both personal and group study, is a useful tool for practical action.

Read the book slowly, pausing to examine your life in the light of each chapter. Life-changing.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Memo to self


1. Sermon at Church on the Rock yesterday: Moses turned aside to look at the burning bush which was not burning, then God spoke to him.

2. Today, reading Nick and Catherine Drayson's blog, a mention of the burning bush. They quote this poem by r.s.thomas, in the context of inspiration for extending God's kingdom:
“I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it.
But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
the treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to posess it.
Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future,
nor hankering after
an imagined past.
It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush
, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory
as your youth
but is the eternity that
awaits you.”

[The Bright Field]

3. This was an Aargh! moment. Reading a blog I came across quite randomly - you know how you click on a blog, then click on another blog mentioned on that blog, etc etc - I found this quote:

Peter Maiden said at a University Christian Union event, (30 years ago)

"Moses spent 40 years learning to be a somebody, 40 years learning to be a nobody and 40 years learning how God can use a somebody who's learned to be a nobody"

I literally went 'Aargh!!', clutching at my hair and bashing elbows on the table - I was about to load to look up... yes, Moses!

So, this is the story: the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up."
When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!"
And Moses said, "Here I am."
Exodus 3:2 - 4 Or, as The Message puts it: The angel of God appeared to him in flames of fire blazing out of the middle of a bush. He looked. The bush was blazing away but it didn't burn up.
Moses said, "What's going on here? I can't believe this! Amazing! Why doesn't the bush burn up?"
God saw that he had stopped to look. God called to him from out of the bush, "Moses! Moses!"

He said, "Yes? I'm right here!"

Then, after making as many excuses as he could think of, Moses went back to Egypt on a mission at God's command...and the rest is history.

It struck me yesterday in church - and again today, reading this passage - that Moses had to turn aside to look at the bush BEFORE God spoke to him. I wonder what would have happened if he'd just carried on walking...?


Saturday, 24 October 2009

Saying 'no'

I never thought I would do this, but I’m actually saying no to a couple of commitments at church. I’ve just – barely – survived a week where, on top of working full time, I have been out for six nights running – five of those six, on church events of one kind or another. Two of them only happen every couple of months – but happened to be on consecutive days. It’s too much: I’m exhausted to the point of feeling ill.

I’m taking myself off the coffee rota, for one. I reckon I’ve been serving coffee about once a month for the last three years, so it’s time to step back.

A while ago, I resigned from leading prayers. I’d been asked to do it shortly after I arrived at church over five years ago, but I just wasn’t comfortable with it. It all seemed too formal, too prescribed – yet doing anything more interactive with over 80 people was quite a chore and didn’t lend itself easily to the format of the service. I couldn’t, in all conscience, continue. So that was OK.

But the coffee rota? What’s the harm in SERVING, especially as it is only once a month?

The harm is in too many other commitments: by the time I’d fitted in coffee rota, prayer ministry rota, small group, ladies' breakfast, prayer session with prayer partner, committee meetings, women’s fellowship committee meetings and events AND tried to spend whatever free time my husband had (he works shifts with a weekend off every five weeks, I work Monday to Friday) with him, my weeks were too full. The harm is in doing too many little things.

There is harm in another way, too. If I am doing something useful, filling a gap – then I am depriving someone else of the opportunity to serve. (Yes, we could have half a dozen of us to serve coffee when one or two will do, but that never happens in practice…)

If someone is not serving or involved in other ways, they may not be developing their God-given talents for His purposes.

So I’m resigning from women’s fellowship committee. I’ll still go on hosting a breakfast for ladies in church who work; I’ll still attend events – if I can.

But at least I am free of pressure to be in a certain place at a certain time.

And where is God in all this? He wasn’t – that was the trouble. I was too tired, too busy for Him. I had begun to run on empty, without His words filling my life. He tapped me on the shoulder with exhausting circumstances, and I’m grateful.

It was indeed time to stop.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Interview with God

I have seen this as an email 'round robin' before, but just love it. Watching it feels like coming into God's presence...

Thursday, 8 October 2009


Thinking about wisdom - and finding this article in Discipleship Journal.

I'm a teacher - and find my school day gives ample opportunity to share wisdom with colleagues, students and parents.

It also gives ample opportunity for Satan to interfere with God's work.

So I realized,when I read Proverbs 19:20 "Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise," that, strange as it may sound when I am the one 'giving instruction' - literally, several times a day - I need God's wisdom quite desperately.

I need advice and instruction when I am dealing with a difficult student, parent, or even colleague.
I need to listen more carefully than I do.
I need to be humble enough to accept that advice - particularly when the advice is to say sorry.
I need to be brave enough to accept that advice - particularly when it might take me to a place of fear.
I need to be strong enough to do put it into action.

Above all, I need to be wise. Help, God!

Friday, 2 October 2009

Wise advice

Psalm 86:11
Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.

Psalm 94:18
When I said, "My foot is slipping," your love, O LORD, supported me.

Psalm 119:32
I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.

Proverbs 21:20
In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil,
but a foolish man devours all he has.

(New International Version)