Less people are dying from natural disasters

Look at this diagram from Our World in Data, trusted by the BBC, CNN and the New York Times. Take out the earthquakes and the graph is even more dramatic.

If there are more extreme weather events in recent times, and yet less people are dying from them, then something is enabling human beings to survive. Could improvements in infrastructure, building materials, transportation, water-purification and better engineering be part of the answer?

I’ve always found this graph fascinating. Is that morbid? I hope not. Every loss of life from a disaster is tragic, but that loss seems to increase where there is under-development. Thank God for the gifts he gives under the earth, and that human creativity that harnesses them, enabling us to adapt so well to our changing world.

You won’t see a graph like this on the 6 o’clock news.

Next time you deal with builders, plumbers, electricians, town-planners, engineers, or even the local council, thank God for them.

Here’s a link back to my most controversial post:

A Personal Reflection on Submission in Marriage

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. A secret in my marriage that I have never discussed with my husband. Nor has my husband discussed it with me. Are you ready? Andrew and I have completely different ways of hanging towels in a bathroom. I didn’t say it was an exciting secret. It’s an unspoken, perhaps unnoticed by him, little difference that each of us tries to ‘correct’ when we hang the towels back up. I hang them my way, and after his shower, he hangs them his way. I then notice them hanging, what seems to me, ‘incorrectly’, and I re-hang them ‘correctly’. 

Am I being an unsubmissive wife?

Some would say yes, some would say no. I guess most of you would say, ‘it really doesn’t matter’.  But what if I honestly thought that my way was the only and truly correct way to hang those towels? And what if Andrew thought his way was the only and truly correct way to hang those towels? What if either of us was genuinely becoming upset, agitated and angry about the other person’s hanging style? What then? What if Andrew said to me specifically, “there is only one correct way to hang towels and it is my way and you have to hang the towels my way.” What then? 

Andrew was recently asked a question about submission in marriage, and what it means, how to explain it to friends who aren’t Christians, and what it actually looks like in marriage on a day-to-day basis. Andrew asked me my opinion and thoughts on the topic, and we had an interesting discussion about it.  Later during a question time online, I thought he answered well. One of Andrew’s greatest gifts is his ability to think well ‘on his feet’, in the moment.  I am not gifted in that way at all. My brain is filled with too many thoughts, half of them inanely functional and boring, some completely imaginative, and most them a little jumbled, especially the later it is at night. Give me a day to think about a topic, and I’ll come up with some more thought out answers. 

So now, 24 hours after the questions, I continue to completely agree with Andrew’s original answer, but I have something to add to it as well. (Sorry if you missed the discussion and original answer. I can’t rewrite the whole thing here, needless to say there was talk of Proverbs 31:11 & 31; talk of Ephesians 5:33 and a lot more besides all that).  

One of the important points that Andrew made was that to understand Biblical submission, we need to define it Biblically. I completely agree. We try to treat many Biblical themes that way. For example, the world defines the word ‘love’ in many ways that we, as Christians, do not. Often what we mean by ‘love’ is different because the Bible says that “God is love” (1John 4:7-8). Even within the passage on which the original questions were asked, Ephesians 5:22-33, we want to be defining the love mentioned in verse 25 with a Biblical definition. It’s easier with that though, because the passage spells out quite clearly what that means: 

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church….” (Ephesians 5:25 & 28)

Husbandly love is self sacrificing and caring. It is a high calling for husbands.  

So what does that look like in a day to day setting? Most wives don’t daily accidentally nearly get run over, so that their husband can run onto the road and push them out of the way, thereby sacrificing his own life to save hers. It happens, but not every day. More often than not, we tend to discuss and paint a picture of what this will look like daily by giving examples of what it is, and giving examples of what it is not. When we give the opposite, it paints more clearly for us what it is.  Bossing a wife around is not loving a wife. Ignoring your wife when you come home from work is not loving your wife. Physically or mentally harming your wife is not loving your wife. Always choosing what you watch together on TV and playing ‘couch commando’ is not loving your wife. Not praying for your wife, speaking badly of your wife to others, discouraging her from growing in the Lord….All of these kinds of examples, help create a picture of what loving is because opposites help us. 

So, let’s turn back to submission. Generally speaking, in our society, the word has become ‘dirty’, yet in practice the concept is used all the time. I submit to the policeman when he tells me to pull my car over. We submit to the law all the time. In fact, our ability as Australians to stand in queues in banks, post offices, Centrelink, Service Centres, is all submission. And we all do it.  It’s not dirty. It’s not clean either. It is just something we all do. As a society though, we choose not to label it ‘submit’.

So what do we do, as Christians, when we read this word in the Scriptures, and are being told that a portion of our church family needs to submit to another portion of our church family? (Wives are only told to submit to their own husbands Ephesians 5:22).  As with other Biblical words, we need to define it Biblically, and look to Biblical examples, which I think we often try to do. So we may have a discussion about Ephesians 5:33 – and what respecting or honouring your husband may look like. We will probably turn to 1Peter 3:1-6 and possibly Colossians 3:18 to fill out the picture a little more. And hopefully within the discussion, we will look at Proverbs 31 and point out that this wife of noble character is capable, hard working, industrious, kind, and brings her husband great honour. In fact, “she brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.” (Proverbs 31:12).  And I would happily leave the discussion there as a good starting point to put to practice. There’s so much there that paints a picture for every day life.

But what I want to add this morning, having had my 24 hours to think a little further on it, is that we can see even more clearly what Biblical submission is, by seeing Biblically what it is not. Biblically speaking, what is the opposite of wifely submission?

We can think of a few Biblical examples of terrible wives, like Jezebel who brought Ahab great harm with her introduction and perpetuation of Baal worship, or Athaliah who killed her grandchildren so she could remain queen, but that seems to be a little extreme, right? 

I think there are a few verses in Proverbs that give us a good indication of the opposite of submission. 

  • “A foolish child is a father’s ruin, and a quarrelsome wife is like the constant dripping of a leaky roof.” (Proverbs 19:13)
  • “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.” (Proverbs 21:9)
  • “Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.” (Proverbs 21:19)
  • “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.” (Proverbs 25:24)
  • “A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping of a leaky roof in a rainstorm; restraining her is like restraining the wind or grasping oil with the hand.” (Proverbs 27:15-16)

If a Christianly submissive wife is one who brings her husband good not harm all his days, a woman who respects her husband, and lives for Jesus with purity and reverence, then an opposite is a wife who is quarrelsome, and nagging. Which wife wants to think that her constant nagging and quarrelsome ways have led her husband to wish he lived on the corner of his rooftop? Which wife wants to think that she reminds him of a constantly dripping tap?  If you are daily nagging your husband to take the bins out, if you are constantly complaining about the car needing to be booked in for a service, or the way he doesn’t do things your way, then may I politely suggest that you’re not being very submissive, you’re not helping your marriage, you’re are not honouring your husband or respecting him? Does that mean you can’t remind your husband it’s ‘bin night’ or that the car needs a service? Of course not. There’s a difference between asking and nagging. Does it mean you can never have a fight with your husband, or that you must think he’s always right? Of course not, being quarrelsome is not the same as having a quarrel. What about disagreeing with your husband, is that allowed? Well, I’d like you to find me an example of any wife who has always agreed with her husband in everything! I believe Biblical submission is an attitude, and I think being a nagging or quarrelsome wife is also based in an attitude.  So, on a day-to-day basis, if you want to know what submission is like, it may help to remember that the opposite is constantly nagging and being quarrelsome.  

However, I think the passage in Ephesians gives us wives a really clear picture of how to stay out of that pitfall. Context, it makes all the difference, doesn’t it! Remember that long sentence before the marriage section?

“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:18-22)

It is very hard to be a nagging and quarrelsome wife if we, being filled with the Spirit, are women of psalms, hymns, and song. If we are making music in our hearts to the Lord, if we are filled with thankfulness to God for everything, then we are going to be far from the rooftop-sending, nagging, quarrelsome wife of Proverbs. Women of joy in the Lord are generally not women of nagging and constant quarrels.

So, back to the towel-hanging in my household. Andrew and I both have options. He could command me to hang the towels his way, deeming my way as wrong. He could be overbearing and unreasonable. And I would say, unloving. Or he could explain to me that he believes his way of hanging towels prevents mould and is therefore healthier for longevity of towel use, means we need to wash them less often, and is better for our breathing. And he could ask me to give his way a try.  Alternatively, I could repeatedly belittle him, nagging him to hang them my way, saying words like “how hard is it, even a trained monkey could do this?”, I could leave sticky notes on the walls of the bathroom with multiple exclamation marks. Or I could ask him if he wouldn’t mind hanging the towels my way because I believe it looks prettier, fits better, and provides better air flow, thus drying the towels more thoroughly between usage.  Or we could just continue to rehang the towels our own preferred way and not get upset about difference of preference.  Ultimately how we end up hanging our towels doesn’t really matter. But the way we get to how we agree does. He’s been told to love, and I’ve been told to submit. Bossing me is unloving. Explaining and asking is loving. He may have valid reasons (for my good) as to why his way is the best way, and I need to submit, knowing he has my best interests at heart.  Me nagging him and belittling him is unsubmissive. Explaining and asking him to try my way is submissive. It’s not about the towels. Hanging towels is not a matter of Godliness. But the way we treat each other is. In such a small and unimportant issue as towel hanging, we can live the attitude that we want permeating our marriage in all areas. I don’t want Andrew wishing he lived on the corner of our rooftop. I want him to know I value him and trust him.  Ultimately, as I read through this article to him, he admitted that he had never noticed that we hang our towels differently! 

We both had a good laugh.

The Devil’s schemes in these days, weeks and months of COVID19 

Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. (Ephesians 6:11)

We heard a great sermon this weekend on standing firm in Jesus Christ, and our preacher rightly warned us about the role of the evil one. 

In the Zoom question time afterward someone asked me what I thought some of the devils schemes were? What a great question, the kind that has clung to me for a couple of days, and driven me to write down some thoughts for my benefit and hopefully yours. What are his schemes at this time with COVID19 hanging over our heads?

I’m sure we can speculate more about his intentions, but from the sure footing of Scripture, here are are four clear strategies of Satan. 

1. If only Christians would deny the reality and inevitability of death.

“You will not certainly die” (The Serpent. Genesis 3:4)

God’s word made the stars, the seas and the souls of every human being. God speaks and what he makes is good. The devil tries to undo this nexus. He sows doubt about the goodness of God’s word and also its power to come true. The first blatant contradiction of the word of God comes from the serpent, when he told those first humans they will not die if they disobey God. 

Denying God’s judgment has been the principle lie that people, even in churches, have believed from that day onwards. I think in these last two years of COVID19, one lie that we face is that we can be in control and that we can stop death breaking into this world. I have noticed that younger people especially think we can control things. Medicine, which is a gift from God, can only prolong this life. It can never completely undo death. Older Christians, and those who have walked close to death’s darkest valley are perhaps less vulnerable, but still must be careful. Ironically the second scheme is related to the first, but almost its opposite.

2. If only Christians would be the same as their community in their fear of death.

“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Hebrews 2:14-15)

If the only thing that exists is matter, then life can be paralysed by the fear of the inevitable and the unstoppable. We are slipping into a culture that says that the only thing important is bodily preservation. Morality is reduced to safety. Wear a hat, put on a condom, take it easy.

Isn’t it interesting how the devil controls us? He wants us to neurotically think that we will not die and at the same time be paralysed by the fear of that which he denies. The Christian however can face death as a reality and not be enslaved by its power. This is the gospel of Jesus, the empty tomb, the home prepared, the life lived now that we sing about.

3. If only Christians would turn on each other rather than help each other. 

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:26-27)

“For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother.”  (1 John 3:11-12)

I’ve noticed that in this time of pressure with lockdowns, misunderstandings and miscommunication have increased. I have noticed that my fuse is a little shorter than normal. Truth be told, I’ve seen this in other people I love and respect too. Frightened people find it hard to love. Remember in Jesus, we don’t need to be afraid. 

Being apart from each other can make things more difficult. Living in our own heads, with our own online eco-chambers doesn’t help either. Anger is so often the Devil’s cocaine*, it’s a rush that tends to make us feel righteous, and everyone else wrong. 

We are not against each other. I’m vaccinated as are the majority of our adults, probably more than 90% will be soon. But some of us are not. They are not my enemies. They are my friends and I do not doubt their love for me and I love them as much as those who are vaccinated.

I have been hurting for them, for those who are worried that they will lose their jobs and won’t be able to pay their mortgages. Even if our community treats them like scapegoats and outcasts, we must be different.   

We must love each other; and I am so glad we are doing this. The gospel of Jesus calls us not to fall into the devil’s schemes.

4. If only Christians would abandon meeting together, praising God and be ok with that. 

“His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ephesians 4:10-11)

“Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.” (Psalm 8:2)

While we can’t meet at the moment, I wonder if the devil’s snare is for us to say that this status quo is ok forever. The church gathering with people from all nationalities and backgrounds proclaims God’s wisdom in the face of all evil powers who wants to keep us away from each other. Praising God is actually God’s plan to shut the accuser’s mouth. He must be rejoicing that we cannot gather and can’t praise God. Don’t give Satan that pleasure. We will meet when we are allowed, but in the meantime let’s do what we can, be what we are as his people, open his word, praise God in our homes and in our walks. Shove in Satan’s face that this present situation does not reflect our hearts. We are Christ’s people, who belong to each other, and nothing can change that!

Here are four of Satan’s strategies:

1. If only Christians would deny the reality and inevitability of death.

2. If only Christians would be the same as their community in their fear of death.

3. If only Christians would turn on each other rather than help each other.

4. If only Christians would abandon meeting together, praising God and be ok with that. 

Please do not read this as a radical call for us to rebel against the government. We will submit to their rules. 

But please do read this as a radical call for us to rebel against the one who thinks he is the “prince of this world”. 

There are risks we face at this time. Some of them will be physical and we want to take seriously the care and protection of each other. But I also want us to be aware that our battle is not with flesh and blood, nor even only with a virus that affects our flesh and blood. Our battle is against the “rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)  Therefore put on God’s armour.

The Bible tells us that Jesus is praying for us now. He stands “at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” (Romans 8:34)

Maybe his prayer for us as his people is similar to his prayer for his disciple Simon Peter.

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32)

May we be aware of the devil’s schemes.
May our faith not fail.
May we stand in the Lord Jesus Christ.
May we turn to God and strengthen our brothers and sisters.

* Thanks to Andrew Klavan for this insightful analogy about anger being the devil’s cocaine.