Gospel Encouragement, part 2

Gospel Encouragement, part 2

Read part 1 here. The Gospel, then, is the truly encouraging message. Everything that encourages, to paraphrase pastor and author Sam Crabtree, everything truly encouraging originates from and is supremely found in Christ — whether that is recognized or not.  Why is this? Simply because God is a God of encouragement. Let’s look at a few examples to see God’s character in action. We’ll start at the beginning, in Genesis. Genesis 3 finds us in the Garden — you know…

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Gospel Encouragement, part 1

Gospel Encouragement, part 1

I had the privilege of giving a short talk at our women’s retreat last weekend. I’ve posted an edited version of what I said here, in three parts. When you hear the word “Gospel,” what do you think about? Most of us probably think about the message that Jesus died for our sins and was raised from the dead to give us life. It becomes a past event for us — something that we agreed with and believed at some…

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God Breathed by Rut Etheridge

God Breathed by Rut Etheridge

I am my own and I am mine. In the West, we live by this mantra. We proclaim it with exuberance and pride. We write stories and sing about our freedom to be ourselves, to follow our own hearts, to not be restrained or limited by anything outside of ourselves. We’ve cut ourselves free. But what if instead of breaking the chains, we’ve cut off the oxygen? It’s not hard to see that this is the case. Pervasive loneliness and…

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“I’m American”

“I’m American”

Less than 100 metres from our home lies the most diverse suburb in Australia, boasting representatives from 112 of the world’s 196 countries. While a dominant Australian culture structures public life, social etiquette and expectations, different cultures regularly interact in my neighborhood, at the shops, at work and at church. With each interaction, expectations can shift, even if slightly, and I need to regain my bearings as to what is normal.  For most of my life, my culture — American,…

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Pruning Season

Pruning Season

July — here, in the Southern Hemisphere, the second month of winter. In southern Australia, this means just-above freezing temperatures, rain, rain, and more rain. It also means pruning season. We’ve inherited several fruit trees and herbs in our garden, and we are learning how to care for them. My husband uses the pruning shears with confidence, while I cringe every time he marks a plant for pruning. Each time a branch is trimmed, I worry that growth will stop,…

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Lettuce & weeds

Lettuce & weeds

Among my lettuce seedlings, tiny weeds had sprung up — they were intertwined with the fragile lettuce leaves, and I could not get my fingers in there skillfully enough to remove the weeds. But finally, when the seedlings were large enough to thin out, I was able to transplant them to areas of the garden with more space, where sown seeds had not sprouted, in the process removing the weeds that had grown up with them. Jesus talks about the…

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He whose strength loves justice

He whose strength loves justice

The Reformed world loves to speak and teach and preach of God’s sovereignty. Based on the sheer number of words  devoted to this topic, it is obviously a precious doctrine to us. And yet there is a danger in our emphasis — or, at least, a pitfall that we must avoid. In speaking of God’s sovereignty, it is easy for our world to conceive of this primarily in terms of force. After all, everywhere around us, this is what power and sovereignty…

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Songs of Disruption

Songs of Disruption

This year for science, my son is studying birds. Part of that study has been keeping a bird watching book, in which he writes down the features of the birds he sees, and then identifies them. It started off well enough, but quickly we hit an issue: rather than sitting and watching the birds, he wanted to take a photo with my phone, and then use the photo to record the birds’ features. Part of that desire came from the…

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Where Discernment Begins

Where Discernment Begins

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is bestand may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:9-11 In his letter to the Philippians, Paul tells them that he prays for their discernment, that they would be able to…

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A Goodness We Can’t Keep to Ourselves

A Goodness We Can’t Keep to Ourselves

The word good is a staple of my vocabulary. I use it frequently, describing my mood, the work others have done, the experiences I have. It comes naturally as a quick and easy response or a casual compliment. As a result, it has lost potency and sharpness, too tired to mean much. When I come, then, to the fruit of the Spirit and find goodness, ambiguity meets me. What is the goodness produced by a life united to Christ and…

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