Hallelujah! What a Saviour

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Today I visited a church in Melbourne as I had been invited to preach. I must say it was so nice to be at church today. Not just because I got to preach. And not just because we heard great things from God’s Word about his grace in Christ Jesus. And not only because I got to meet some great and godly new brothers and sisters. And not simply because I got to see some old friends I haven’t seen for a while.

Today I was really struck as we sang together. I often find myself reflecting on the songs we sing. They have a way of getting in my head… and staying there… sometimes all week. Just ask my kids as I hum and sing badly for the week ahead. Songs have a way of staying with us.

Today we sang a song that I don’t remember singing before. I almost can’t believe that to be true. Because it’s an old song [google tells me from 1875 by Philip B. Bliss]. And it’s a good song. I’m sure I’ve come across it before but today its words really impacted me at the time and have remained with me. They struck me as deeply and profoundly good words to sing.

Here are the lyrics. Accompanied only by an acoustic guitar and 2 clear [and beautiful] voices we sang,

  1. “Man of Sorrows!” what a name
    For the Son of God, who came
    Ruined sinners to reclaim.
    Hallelujah! What a Savior!
  2. Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
    In my place condemned He stood;
    Sealed my pardon with His blood.
    Hallelujah! What a Savior!
  3. Guilty, vile, and helpless we;
    Spotless Lamb of God was He;
    “Full atonement!” can it be?
    Hallelujah! What a Savior!
  4. Lifted up was He to die;
    “It is finished!” was His cry;
    Now in Heav’n exalted high.
    Hallelujah! What a Savior!
  5. When He comes, our glorious King,
    All His ransomed home to bring,
    Then anew His song we’ll sing:
    Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Hallelujah what a Saviour indeed!!

— Chris

2 Weddings + 2000kms = Great times!

We had a great weekend visiting friends and families. We drove a lot. We talked a lot. We celebrated weddings a lot. It really was a great time for us as a family together.

Today is our wedding anniversary and it was really nice to be reminded of the vows we made 9 years ago. We give thanks to God for his goodness to us over the past 9 years of married life and for his great care of us as we travelled to Sydney last weekend.

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Here’s a photo from 9 years ago when we made our vows.

We continue to enjoy our time studying here and we were reminded how quickly this time is passing us by. We’ll return next to Sydney in late June for 6 months of visiting our link churches.

— Chris

 

I’m sorry.

IMG_1935.JPG“I’m sorry ok?”

“I’m sorry if anything I said hurt your feelings.”

“I regret my poor choice of words, but…”

Ugh how bad are bad apologies?! They’re the pits! Rather than being the means of confessing our wrongs, bad apologies become carefully crafted means of blame-shifting, side-stepping and self-justification. But how often do we use these dodgy “apologies”, telling ourselves (and others) that we’ve done our part?

I want to share some gold from the Resolving Everyday Conflict course (Peacemaker Ministries). Today we explored how to make a good apology. It might seem simple, but good apologies are rare. Unfortunately we often excuse, minimise or even deny that any wrong was done. We rarely ask for forgiveness. Yet confession, forgiveness and reconciliation are at the heart of the gospel and should be the bread and butter of Christian living.

So what are the elements of a good apology? These are the 7 A’s taken directly from the Resolving Everyday Conflict booklet:

ADDRESS everyone involved. It’s time to acknowledge and apologise to everyone involved. Not only the person you argued with with, but others who were embroiled directly or through gossip.

AVOID ifs and buts. With these words we let ourselves off the hook and even shift the blame to the victim. No!

ADMIT specifically. Instead of hiding behind vagueness, let’s be honest with God, ourselves and others. Let’s apologise for our actions and the sinful attitudes behind them.

ACKNOWLEDGE the hurt. We need to show that we understand and care that we’ve hurt someone.

ACCEPT the consequences. If we are truly sorry for our actions, we are willing to accept the consequences. Being forgiven does not cancel out consequences.

ALTER your behaviour. Are you just sorry you got caught? Or will you actually plan, with God’s help, to change your behaviour? Express this, but don’t promise that you will “never do it again”. Broken sinners are not able to keep such promises!

ASK for forgiveness. This is so important. It provides the offended person the opportunity to respond and express forgiveness. Don’t be surprised if they need some time to think and pray about their response.

This is not a formula! Our sinful hearts will always seek a silver bullet; outward signs that show us to be righteous. If our hearts are unrepentant, we can say these words, but they will not constitute a true apology. Let’s ask God to convict us of our wrongs and bring true confession and repentance.

This might all sound nice, but faith must show itself in actions. May I encourage you to think about how you have wronged someone? Be bold and write out an apology to God. And the scary part – go to the person you have wronged and apologise. If they forgive you, you can rejoice that you are reconciled! If they do not forgive you, you have still honoured them and Christ. God is sovereign over the outcome; our responsibility is faithful obedience.

And may God bless us as we seek to follow Him, even in the most painful of situations.

Stef

Check out Peacemaker Ministries at http://peacemaker.net/

I also highly recommend their short, readable book, Resolving Everyday Conflict, by Ken Sande. You can buy it online at:

https://www.amazon.com/Resolving-Everyday-Conflict-Ken-Sande/dp/080100568X

Diary of a Missionary: Packing Up

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I’m standing in my kitchen again, this time weighing up the pros and cons of having a nice tea set on the mission field.

They are beautiful and I like them, I’ll need cups so why not bring nice ones that remind me of home? Stef, you can get cups anywhere, are you really going to waste valuable boot space on ancient, mismatched porcelain? 

I didn’t realise how many decisions I’d have to make about what to keep and what to get rid of. I’ve got a mountain of cleaning to do and I’ve been standing here for way too long thinking about cups. I can’t decide, so I put them back in the cupboard for later.

When we were first accepted by our mission organisation as missionaries-in-training, the thought of cutting down our possessions until they’d fit in our car was a frightful one. I’d been op shopping since I was in high school and had quite a curious collection! I’d taken meticulous care of things I’d assumed that I’d have for life.

It took about six months to fit our lives into our Captiva. Family and friends bagsed* the dining table, baby toys and my extensive collection of lamps. I started to feel a bit more comfortable letting things go. By Christmas most of the big stuff was sorted, but it was all the little bits and pieces that consumed my thoughts. Which preschool drawings to keep, which to recycle? Would I throw out the (now 9 year old) wedding cards or store them? How many picture frames is it healthy to own? Do missionaries take nice tea sets?

The last week in our Sydney home was exhausting. Where I had previously spent too long considering which possessions to keep, now I was disposing of things with barely a thought. Our final day was a Saturday and I honestly don’t know how we got out of there. Things that had last week seemed precious or useful enough to keep were now carelessly tossed into the Vinnies pile, because the car was bursting. But as we slowly pulled out of the driveway I felt a sense of relief. The mammoth job was finally done! But on a deeper level I felt lighter having less stuff to worry about.

God has taught me a lot over the last few months. I’ve realised that when your beloved possessions are in front of you, they hold great power and are very hard to part with. However the second they are gone, they are forgotten. I got rid of a whole house of stuff and I honestly couldn’t tell you what half of it was, even though six months ago I thought it was vital.

God has also reminded me that the value of a Shire girl does not consist in the abundance of her household items. I’ve always known that possessions don’t matter, but now I’ve had to put my money where my mouth is. At times it was hard, but it slowly got easier as cushions and ornaments loosened their grip on me. I ended up giving the tea set to a friend and it’s actually ok. And do I miss the rooms of stuff I used to own? No.

Interestingly one of the most common questions we were asked was, “What are you doing with all your stuff?” Some people seemed more concerned about where our furniture was going than were in the world we were going! I know that it was asked in all love and sincerity and I wasn’t annoyed with the question. I guess it just made me realise that for many of us, our identity is tightly bound up with what we have.

I’m thankful to God that I have been blessed with an abundance of everything I need and even most of what I want. I struggled to cut down my possessions to fit them in the boot of an SUV. How many more people are there in the world who could barely fill a box with their entire livelihood? I am thankful that God has shown me my excess, but I know that my greedy heart has a long way to go. Please pray with me that God would expose the idolatry of greed and consumption, both in my life and yours.

I look forward to sharing more of our missionary journey with you in the coming months!

— Stef

* bagsed may not be a real word.

NOTE: This post was also originally posted at Australian Church Record – you can see it here – http://www.australianchurchrecord.net/diary-of-a-missionary-packing-up/