Mandy's Musings

Saturday, March 31, 2007

The myth of 'growing as Christian'

I get to interact with lots of wise Christian women here at the Cathedral. A conversation I had with one of these women on Thursday has really had me thinking.

She said:
I don't understand why we always talk about growing as a Christian. Either you are a Christian or you aren't.

My first thought was - what about all the language in the Bible that talks about maturity, no longer being infants and being transformed into the likeness of Christ? Surely that is the language of growth.

But as she pointed out these are images that apply to those who are already Christian. We are not growing as a Christian, but growing in Christian maturity. By the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us, the Father is transforming and molding us to be more like his Son. We are not becoming 'better Christians' which seems to infer that there is something lacking in us when we were converted.

It makes me wonder whether talking of growing as a Christian puts an emphasis on our work rather than God's work in us. Is it unhelpful? Does it make us think that somehow we've not yet made it and have to add something to the completed work of Christ?

Is it a fuss about nothing, or a helpful corrective to the way that we speak and think?

Photo by Alicia Jo McMahan; Burnsville, nc, United States;

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Last night I graduated with a Bachelor of Divinity and Diploma of Ministry from Moore Theological College.

It was a great night as the college recognised 97 graduates - from the Bible & Missions Course, Bachelor of Theology, Bachelor of Divinity and Master of Arts in Theology.

Bill Salier, the new Vice Principal spoke from Romans 5:1-11 and reminded us that the chorus of the song that Christians sing is found in verse 8:
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

Too tired to think properly, so here are some more photos:

The Bible Talks Church Staff graduate - with Andrew Nixon

With Mum, Dad and Kevin

With Deb and Emma - MAC girls 2003-2005

With Amelia

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Women and Self-Esteem (Part #4b)

The Bible's Solution
... or maybe that is really The Bible's Promise

I ended last time with
The devastating impact of sin
The rejection of God by the first man and woman, created in God's image, has devastating consequences for them and us Gen 3. While we remain in God's image, sin impacts upon each and every aspect of our lives. Because of sin we are dead (Eph 2:1), alienated from God (Col 1:21), enemies of God (Rom 5:10).

The reality of sin in our lives means that we are living in a world that is far from perfect. We see the impact of sin in the world at large - poverty, hunger, war, terrorism, and cancer to name a few. Closer to home, we also see sin at work in our own lives, impacting upon and damaging relationship, seen in our sinful and selfish tendencies.

While we are still created in God's image and rule over his creation, we do so in a frustrated way, as creation groans and longs with us for the return of Jesus and the establishment of the new heavens and the new earth (Romans 8:18-25).

Sin also impacts upon our ability to see ourselves rightly. For some, sin will blind us to our faults and lead to us having an over-inflated view of ourselves, such that Paul exhorts us to think soberly about ourselves (Romans 12:3). Yet for others, sin will manifest itself in a self-loathing, despising themselves for past sin or perceived failures. These people need to be reminded again that Christ has died once for all sin (Hebrews 10:12-13, 1 Peter 3:18)

Christian identity is radically transformed in Jesus
As Christians, the reality is that sin has been defeated by Jesus, and as believers we are radically transformed. Not least, we have been made alive in Christ (Eph 2:5). Our union with Christ has given us a new identity, as Children of God, forgiven, redeemed, sanctified, justified. Who we are 'in Christ' cannot be underestimated. A quick skim through Romans noticing what we are in, through and by Christ reveals that we are justified, redeemed, have peace with God, have obtained access by faith into grace, have been saved from God's wrath, are reconciled, baptised into Christ's death, raised from the dead, live with Christ, will never die again, are set free from sin, have eternal life, have died to the law, serve in the spirit, having been set free from the law of Sin and death, will be graciously given all things.

It is this union with Christ that enables the Bible to talk about us putting off the old way of life and putting on the new way of life, walking in godliness and obedience to Christ (eg Galatians 5, Ephesians 4&5, Col 3, 1 Thes 2). The believer is a new creation (2 Cor 5:17:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

This is an amazing reality that is worth much reflection. In Christ, I am forgiven. My sin is dealt with, and God's Holy Spirit lives and dwells in me.

One thing this doesn't mean is that I no longer sin, which brings us to the fourth and final point of this section.

The tension of living in the now but not yet
1 John is a great book for reminding us of both the call for the believer to walk in obedience to Christ while recognising the reality of sin:
2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

While Christ has completely defeated Satan on the cross, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him, and will not see this until he returns. As such, the believer lives in the tension of the now and not yet. On the one hand sin is dealt with and she is a new creation, but on the other hand, sin is still in the world and plagues her.

Indeed, one area where Satan can seek to undermine the confidence of those who are in Christ is to use the focus of this world on self and self worth. We take our eyes of Jesus and focus upon ourselves and doubt whether we are truly redeemed and forgiven.

Speaking personally, I think that one of the dangers that faces us as believers is to know these great truths but somehow hold them 'out there' and instead of them providing comfort they act as a judge over us as we fail to live up to this standard that we think that we should (I think this was what Michael was referring to in a previous comment about the inward loathing that is sometimes felt). But more on this in the next post when we look at some practical tips (Post #5).

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TAT Chat Interview - Introducing Mandy

Thought some of you might enjoy this - I was interviewed by Debbie Teakle for the Term 1 TAT Chat (TAT is the Cathedral Women's Bible study groups that meet on Thursdays at Ten).

While interviewing Mandy Curley I not only discovered that she prefaced a lot of her answers with 'I'm the sort of crazy person that . . .', but I also discovered that she is warranted in doing so. Mandy enjoys a day off work by getting up early and jogging 4 kms to Newtown where she joins a friend to jog another 6 km before breakfast. Mandy also enjoys vacuuming the floor and cleaning her kitchen, her current favourite meal is lemon coriander lentils and here's the clincher - she enjoys the process of essay writing.

But this is not to say that she is not like the rest of us. Her more identifiable qualities include loving the beach, enjoying coffee with friends, hating bugs, loathing cleaning the bathroom* and being 'musically challenged'. (*for all you prospective guests this is not to say she doesn't clean her bathroom, just that she doesn't like it.) Her favourite book is Little Women, her favourite movie is Top Gun and her favourite dessert is passionfruit souffle. All these traits trail into insignificance however, compared to her most defining quality - her love for God's Word.

Mandy came to know Christ through beach mission. She grew up in Wetherill Park and every summer since she was 18 months old Mandy and her family would go to Kiama where there was a beach mission (her parents thought it was a great babysitting service). It was in Kiama that Mandy first heard that God loved her and that Jesus died for her. In year 5, after a bad year at school, Mandy saw that the mission people were different and she wanted to be like them. She told them 'you've got something I haven't got and I want it' and this is when she prayed to accept Jesus as her Lord.

Because Beach Mission was Mandy's only form of Christian teaching and fellowship, she would write down all her questions from the Bible and literally wait on the hill on Boxing Day for the beach mission team to arrive and hand over her list of questions. The team prayed for her year after year and wrote her many letters of encouragement. Along with her brother, Mandy joined a youth group at the end of year 11 and finally found herself a member of a church family. It was here that she understood what it meant to live with Jesus as her Lord.

After high school Mandy went to study at UTS and all of a sudden found herself knowing 30 or 40 christians her own age. For the first time she was taught from the Old Testament which further intensified her passion for God's Word. Mandy became a member of St John's Park Anglican church where she helped lead the young adults Bible Study Group.

While she loved being at university Mandy increasingly became aware that her chosen profession (Business Law) would demand more and more of her time and that it required a certain 'harshness' to get things done. At the same time she began to realise how much she enjoyed ministry on campus and so decided to free up time to do the Ministry Training Strategy while completing the last two years of her degree and working part time.

When Mandy had finished her degree and MTS, rather than progressing straight to Moore College, she decided to test her suitably to ministry by taking a job with the Tax Office in Canberra and join a church (St Matthews, Waniassa) where she didn't really know anybody. So she just did what came naturally and started meeting up with other women to read and study the Bible. Six months later her minister took her aside and asked her if she was considering going into ministry and if she wasn't-why not?

Mandy got increasingly involved with church over the next three years and then moved back to Sydney to go to Moore College in 2003. Mandy describes these years as the best time in her life because she just loved studying the Bible and writing essays alongside other like-minded people.

So now we have the pleasure of having Mandy on staff here at the Cathedral. She can't believe that it is her job to encourage other Christian women and study God's word because she loves it so much. If you want to know more about Mandy, why not introduce yourself? You could also check out her blog where her main topic of discussion is ... you guessed it ... God's Word. You're in the right job Mandy!

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Women and Self-Esteem (Post #4)

The Bible's Solution

In contrast to the view of the world that looks within for an understanding of ourslves, the Bible's response is that the key to Self-Esteem is found not inwardly but outwardly!

We'll look at the bible's solution in four sections:
1. Our concept of self or identity is fundamentally tied up in who God is;
2. The devastating impact of Sin
3. Christian identity is radically transformed in Jesus;
4. The effect of the overlap of the ages.

So firstly,
Our concept of self or identity is fundamentally tied up in who God is
Human beings play a special part in God's creation - we are created in God's image and are specially tasked as his vice-regents here on earth. In Gen 1:26-28 we read of the special dignity and rule that the first man and woman are given in the world while Psalm 8 celebrates the glory of man created in God's image.

There is a high honour given to man that comes not from within but from without, with reference to the one who created us in his image, who is himself the creator and sustainer of the whole universe.

In radical contrast to the world that tells us to look within to find identity and security, the bible tells us to fix our eyes outside of ourselves, on the God of the whole universe and to ground all of our thinking about ourselves in the Character and Nature of the one who created us in his image.

The devastating impact of sin
The rejection of God by the first man and woman, created in God's image, has devastating consequences for them and us Gen 3. While we remain in God's image, sin impacts upon each and every aspect of our lives. Because of sin we are dead (Eph 2:1), alienated from God (Col 1:21), enemies of God (Rom 5:10).

more to come ...

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Women and Self-Esteem (Post #3)

The World's solution

Do you remember the ad campaign? I can't remember what it was advertising, but I definitely remember the slogan:
The most important person in the world ... YOU!

Our world tell us that we really are the centre of the universe, that the sun does revolve around me.

And when it comes to the concept of self, the world tells us that we are worthy and valuable and must look within ourselves to find strength. The world commonly tells us that we can determine our identity and destiny - if only we make good and right choices. Even the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty is premised on the idea that inwardly we are all beautiful and strong and a healthy self-esteem will come from looking within ourselves in a positive way.

And in the view of the world, our concept of self is inevitably tied to what we do. Once we know someone's name, is it not the next logical step to ask 'and what to you do?'. How many times have you heard someone say 'I'm just a stay at home Mum' Parents boast of their sucessful child who is excelling at school or sport or music.

So how does the world's solution work? For most of us, not really that well at all. For when we look within, we can't help but see imperfection for the reality is that we are not perfect. Rarely is success achieved simply by setting our minds to the task ahead - disappointments and frustrations abound. Furthermore, the world's solution encourages competition, as we measure ourselves in relation to another. As Jane Tooher has said: 'the world's view is unrealistic and unhelpful'

So if the world's solution disappoints, what is the Bible's solution? Stay tuned for Post #4

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Women and Self Esteem (Post #2)

The presenting problem

Issues of self-esteem are prevalent in the world in which we live. Kasey Chambers 2001 chart hit 'Not Pretty Enough' from the album: Barricades & Brickwalls struck a chord with many as she sang:
Am I not pretty enough?
Is my heart too broken?
Do I cry too much?
Am I too outspoken?

Don't I make you laugh?
Should I try it harder?
Why do you see right through me?

She expresses the cry for acceptance that many share. Here is a talented recording artist expressing concerns about her place in the world. And it seems that she is not alone.

Who hasn't ministered amongst women who seem to be godly and mature yet express a lack of belief in their own abilities to take on a new task? Who's never heard a woman express doubts about her worth or value? Who's never heard a woman compare herself to others around her and come up short?

We live in a world that is marred by the effects of sin. Pain and suffering are a reality that we will all face in this world. Failure (of at least some kind) is guaranteed. One expression of that is seen in what we call low Self-Esteem.

Next: The world's solution

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Women and Self-Esteem (Post #1)

I'm giving a seminar next Tuesday at our MTS Women's Training entitled: 'Women and Self-Esteem' and wanted to enlist your help. The plan is to post in sections what I'm hoping to cover and get your input to help me refine what I'm going to say.

The plan:
The presenting problem (Post #2)

The world's solution (Post #3)

The Bible's solution (Post #4)

Living in light of a right view of the self - practical tips (Post #5)

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Satan loves it when Christians argue

A wise woman pointed out to me yesterday that Satan loves it when Christians argue, when those who are united in Christ become drawn into arguing with one another and are distracted from the task of loving and serving each other as well as our great and glorious God.

Then this morning I read Ephesians 4:1-3:
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

I was rebuked at how easily I let my sin and pride get in the way of restored relationships and at the way that distracts me from serving God wholeheartedly because so much of my energy gets tied up in feelings of anger, disappointment and hurt which often leads to bitterness and resentment. I felt the need to pray and ask the Lord to work in me by his Spirit to be more humble and gentle, patient and eager to bear with others in love as well as asking that I would be generous and gracious in my dealings with others, being quick to forgive when sinned against as well as ready and willing to ask for forgiveness when I am in the wrong.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Cross of Christ

I've begun reading The Cross of Christ by John Stott (again) with one of the women from The Bible Talks.

There are many reasons that I love this book, not least for the clear outline of the meaning and impact of Jesus death. We see how our theology changes how we think and drives our actions.

Here is an excerpt from the first chapter (page 40):

The third and most important reason why he knew he would die was because of his own deliberate choice. He was determined to fulfil what was written of the Messiah, however painful it would be. This was neither fatalism nor a martyr complex. It was quite simply that he believed Old Testament Scripture to be his Father's revelation and that he was totally resolved to do his Father's will and finish his Father's work. besides, his suffering and death would not be purposeless. he had some 'to seek and to save what was lost' (Luke 19:10). It was for the salvation of sinners that he would die, giving his life as a ransom to set them free (Mark 10:45). So he set his face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem. Nothing would deter or deflect him. Hence the reiterated 'must' when he spoke of his death. The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected. Everything that was written about him must be fulfilled. he refused to appeal for angels to rescue him, because then the Scriptures would not be fulfilled which said that it must happen in this way. Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer before entering his glory? He felt under constraint, even under compulsion: 'I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am (RSV 'constrained', literally 'hemmed in') until it is completed!' (Luke 12:50).

So then, he knew he must die, it was not because he was the helpless victim either of evil forces arrayed against him, or of any inflexible fate decreed for him,. but because he freely embraced the purpose of his Father for the salvation of sinners, as it had been revealed in Scripture.

Given this, how would you respond to the charge that Jesus was on a suicide mission?

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Two lies about sin

We looked at 1 John 1:1-2:2 in Bible Study on Thursday night and discovered that there were two lies we could believe about sin.

The first says that sin doesn't matter:
1:6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.

The second says that sin doesn't exist:
1:8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

How easily we fall into the trap of believing either of these two lies - trying to deny the seriousness of our sin or pretending that it's not real.

Yet the truth of the situation is that while Christians do sin, we don't continue to live in sin. Jesus' death on the cross pays the penalty for our sin and the Holy Spirit at work in us transforms us to live a holy life. As we see in 1 John 2:1-2:
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

How great are those comfortable words?