WILLLIAM AND ELIZA FIELDING OF REDLAND BAY

 

 

Bill Fielding’s store established 1884, Redland Bay, Q.

The Fielding Children: Lucinda, Lavinia, Mary, Willie, Jane – Dear Family, This order is guesswork and if you know better, please let me know. – Marion

The Fielding children, Redland Bay
The Fielding Children
THE FIELDING FAMILY
The Fielding Family

Back: Eliza, Lavinia, Bill, Mary

Front: Lucinda (Lyn), Janie, Willie

Aunt May teaching at Mount Cotton, Q.Aunt May teaching at Mount Cotton enhanced

 

Fielding Family Get-togethers

Unknown people with bus from Warren Bray

 

 

Fielding Family from Warren Bray.

Advertisements

FRANK AND ELLA WHITE AT MILES, QLD.

New Church opening early 1966 Miles23012018
Opening Day 1966
Manse, Minister's Car Holden, Old Church Miles 1963 23012018
Manse Holden in front of Manse
New Church almost finished 1965 Miles23012018
New church nearing completion
New Church under construction 1965 Miles23012018
Foundations for new church – notice steam train in background.1965
Old Church 203022018
Old church
Boiling the Billy after church Gurulmundi Ted Little, Rev White23012018
Elder Ted Little and Rev Frank White and others on a Sunday afternoon boiling the billy after the service at Gurulmundi.
Wheat Harvesting 196323012018
Cousins and Wheat Harvest
Oil Drilling Mum at car196323012018
Mum at rig
Bulk Wheat Truck Eleanor front centre 196323012018
Cousins at wheat harvest
The Weir on the Dogwood 196323012018
The Weir
Blowout 196323012018
Blow out!
Uncle Hil and Santa Fe Oil Drilling 196323012018
Uncle Hil and drilling rig
Ulimaroa Silos 196323012018
Ulimaroa Silos
Bulk and Bagged Wheat Silos 196323012018
Bulk and bagged wheat
Cattle Yards23012018
Cattle Sales
Civic Centre 1963 Miles23012018
Shire Council
Condamine River 196323012018
Condamine River
Fire Station 1963 Miles23012018
Fire Station
High School and Primary School 1963 Miles23012018
Primary and High School
Honestead 1963 near Miles23012018
Homestead
Hospital 1963 Miles23012018
Hospital
Our Joey Manse 196323012018
Our Joey
White Fmly Miles 196323012018
The White Family 1963
Joy, Barb, Jill Little's 196323012018
Fishing after tennis
Jane&Joy W Jill L Miles23012018
Chatting at the garden gate.
Chris W stick picking 1964 @ Hendersons23012018
Stick-picking is hard work
Anna with Skampa Manse enhanced
Anna and Skampa

Most of these photos were taken by Marion Andrews (nee White) between 1963 and 1966. They were memories of Miles to take to Brisbane when she went to board with her kind relatives, the Nicholls Family at Toowong. While there, she completed her last two years of schooling, Sub-Senior and Senior, we called them then. Some photos are of relatives visiting from Redland Bay and Brisbane. One shows Rev. Frank White, Elder Ted Little and others boiling the billy on a Sunday afternoon after the service at Gurulmundi. If you click on a photo you should see a caption.

MALE AND FEMALE – MATTHEW HENRY’S COMMENTARY ON GENESIS 2

I know of no better male advocate for the good, fair and just Biblical position of woman than Matthew Henry. – Marion

Verses 21-25
Here we have,
I. The making of the woman, to be a help-meet for Adam. This was done upon the sixth day, as was also the placing of Adam in paradise, though it is here mentioned after an account of the seventh day’s rest; but what was said in general ch. 1:27 ), that God made man male and female, is more distinctly related here.

Observe, 1. That Adam was first formed, then Eve (1 Tim. 2:13 ), and she was made of the man, and for the man (1 Co. 11:8, 1 Co. 11:9 ), all which are urged there as reasons for the humility, modesty, silence, and submissiveness, of that sex in general, and particularly the subjection and reverence which wives owe to their own husbands. Yet man being made last of the creatures, as the best and most excellent of all, Eve’s being made after Adam, and out of him, puts an honour upon that sex, as the glory of the man, 1 Co. 11:7 . If man is the head, she is the crown, a crown to her husband, the crown of the visible creation. The man was dust refined, but the woman was dust double-refined, one remove further from the earth.

2. That Adam slept while his wife was in making, that no room might be left to imagine that he had herein directed the Spirit of the Lord, or been his counsellor, Isa. 40:13 . He had been made sensible of his want of a meet help; but, God having undertaken to provide him one, he does not afflict himself with any care about it, but lies down and sleeps sweetly, as one that had cast all his care on God, with a cheerful resignation of himself and all his affairs to his Maker’s will and wisdom. Jehovah-jireh, let the Lord provide when and whom he pleases. If we graciously rest in God, God will graciously work for us and work all for good.

3. That God caused a sleep to fall on Adam, and made it a deep sleep, that so the opening of his side might be no grievance to him; while he knows no sin, God will take care he shall feel no pain. When God, by his providence, does that to his people which is grievous to flesh and blood, he not only consults their happiness in the issue, but by his grace he can so quiet and compose their spirits as to make them easy under the sharpest operations.
4. That the woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved. Adam lost a rib, and without any diminution to his strength or comeliness (for, doubtless, the flesh was closed without a scar); but in lieu thereof he had a help meet for him, which abundantly made up his loss: what God takes away from his people he will, one way or other, restore with advantage. In this (as in many other things) Adam was a figure of him that was to come; for out of the side of Christ, the second Adam, his spouse the church was formed, when he slept the sleep, the deep sleep, of death upon the cross, in order to which his side was opened, and there came out blood and water, blood to purchase his church and water to purify it to himself. See Eph. 5:25, Eph. 5:26 .

II. The marriage of the woman to Adam. Marriage is honourable, but this surely was the most honourable marriage that ever was, in which God himself had all along an immediate hand. Marriages (they say) are made in heaven: we are sure this was, for the man, the woman, the match, were all God’s own work; he, by his power, made them both, and now, by his ordinance, made them one. This was a marriage made in perfect innocency, and so was never any marriage since,
1. God, as her Father, brought the woman to the man, as his second self, and a help-meet for him. When he had made her, he did not leave her to her own disposal; no, she was his child, and she must not marry without his consent. Those are likely to settle to their comfort who by faith and prayer, and a humble dependence upon providence, put themselves under a divine conduct. That wife that is of God’s making by special grace, and of God’s bringing by special providence, is likely to prove a help-meet for a man. 2, .

2. From God, as his Father, Adam received her (v. 23): “This is now bone of my bone. Now I have what I wanted, and which all the creatures could not furnish me with, a help meet for me.’’ God’s gifts to us are to be received with a humble thankful acknowledgment of his wisdom in suiting them to us, and his favour in bestowing them on us. Probably it was revealed to Adam in a vision, when he was asleep, that this lovely creature, now presented to him, was a piece of himself, and was to be his companion and the wife of his covenant. Hence some have fetched an argument to prove that glorified saints in the heavenly paradise shall know one another. Further, in token of his acceptance of her, he gave her a name, not peculiar to her, but common to her sex: She shall be called woman, Isha, a she-man, differing from man in sex only, not in nature—made of man, and joined to man.

III. The institution of the ordinance of marriage, and the settling of the law of it, v. 24. The sabbath and marriage were two ordinances instituted in innocency, the former for the preservation of the church, the latter for the preservation of the world of mankind. It appears (by Mt. 19:4, Mt. 19:5 ) that it was God himself who said here, “A man must leave all his relations, to cleave to his wife;’’ but whether he spoke it by Moses, the penman, or by Adam (who spoke, v. 23), is uncertain. It should seem, they are the words of Adam, in God’s name, laying down this law to all his posterity.
1. See here how great the virtue of a divine ordinance is; the bonds of it are stronger even than those of nature. To whom can we be more firmly bound than the fathers that begat us and the mothers that bore us? Yet the son must quit them, to be joined to his wife, and the daughter forget them, to cleave to her husband, Ps. 45:10, Ps. 45:11 .
2. See how necessary it is that children should take their parents’ consent along with them in their marriage, and how unjust those are to their parents, as well as undutiful, who marry without it; for they rob them of their right to them, and interest in them, and alienate it to another, fraudulently and unnaturally.
3. See what need there is both of prudence and prayer in the choice of this relation, which is so near and so lasting. That had need be well done which is to be done for life.
4. See how firm the bond of marriage is, not to be divided and weakened by having many wives (Mal. 2:15 ) nor to be broken or cut off by divorce, for any cause but fornication, or voluntary desertion.
5. See how dear the affection ought to be between husband and wife, such as there is to our own bodies, Eph. 5:28 . These two are one flesh; let them then be one soul.

IV. An evidence of the purity and innocency of that state wherein our first parents were created, v. 25. They were both naked. They needed no clothes for defense against cold nor heat, for neither could be injurious to them. They needed none for ornament. Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Nay, they needed none for decency; they were naked, and had no reason to be ashamed. They knew not what shame was, so the Chaldee reads it. Blushing is now the colour of virtue, but it was not then the colour of innocency. Those that had no sin in their conscience might well have no shame in their faces, though they had no clothes to their backs.

TO HONOUR THE LORD’S DAY

1981Family at Miles in wattle time

Chapter 1 – HONOUR THE SABBATH DAY!

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Ecclesiastes 5:1

I see children climbing on the rock wall on their way up King’s Hill to St Stephen’s, Tamworth. Soon, an old woman comes round the corner and chases them away. I think of these words from Ecclesiastes when I see someone with reduced mobility slowly climbing the steep hill path. King’s Hill was named after Gidley King, nephew of the colonial Governor King. Yet it seems right to worship the King of kings on this hill-top. All of Scripture sings of going up the hill of the Lord, glorious Mount Zion, city of the great King, to worship Him. We are more privileged than many Christians, even in Tamworth, to have our church building sitting on the top of a hill, especially a hill that bears a name like King’s Hill.

And yet if you go over the river and up to Oxley Lookout, King’s Hill hardly stands out. In the bigger picture its steep roads and paths hardly count. They look quite flat. Flagstaff Mountain is the king of mountains surrounding the Peel Valley at Tamworth. And so, perspective helps to keep us humble and reminds me that today’s steep climb will be of no consequence when we reach the city of the great King.

For Stuart and me, Sunday is the Flagstaff Mountain-top of the week. Other days lead up to it, and those following are a descent from the summit. The Lord’s Day is a full day in a clergy household, the most exhausting and at times the most stressful. Very early in our ministry Stuart and I realized that as Sunday is so demanding, we needed Saturday to be our ‘preparation for the Sabbath’. We needed to prepare the way. This meant sacrificing many weekend pleasures that others enjoy.

Some people like to joke that ministers work only on Sundays. That is a joke! A minister is on-call any time of the day or night, any day of the week, besides having a programme that often fills up 60 or more hours a week. Only this week as I write, Stuart was called to the hospital in the middle of the night. After his heart attack in 2001, Stuart tried, with limited success, to cut back to the proverbial 40 hours a week. In the service of our great King, we count all the hours as a joy and a privilege. It is only when the body starts to wear out that time needs to be measured.

There’s no sleeping-in on Sunday morning. Quiet Time, breakfast and family prayers all have to run like clockwork. Most mornings there is time to listen to the headlines just in case there is any earth-shattering news. With new technology, one has simply to tap the screen and up come the news headlines at any time. It is a bit disconcerting when a person has worked their whole morning routine around the 7.45 news since childhood! And yet, tapping the iPad comes with a certain relief. I don’t have to listen to the cynicism and atheistic bias of the secular media on the Lord’s Day.

In recent years we have taken to cleaning our spectacles in the hot washing-up suds on Sunday morning. One morning, we arrived at St Stephen’s and everything seemed blurred to me. Stuart started the service and discovered that he couldn’t read clearly. Then we realized simultaneously: he had my glasses on and I had his. They had been mixed up in the washing. Since then I have procured a pink pair that are not so easy to confuse. Glitches like this, rather than drawing criticism from our congregation as once I feared, now elicit smiles or chuckles.

In our early years when we had babies and young children, Sunday mornings before church were particularly rushed. One little daughter liked to make an issue of what she wore to church. In particular she did not want to wear a matching outfit with her sister. There was one Sunday morning run-in when I was away having a new baby. Stuart’s parents were holding the fort and Nanna remembered that battle of the wills for a long time.

One advantage of living near the church was getting to church on time. We never had a big problem with punctuality, though I know some ministry families do. I guess both Stuart and I were raised by World War II veterans who required their children to be on parade on time, and this flowed through to our own adult habits.

We time things so that Stuart has half an hour to meditate in his study before we leave for the service. I have a mental check-list before I step out the front door. Beside the children’s notebooks, pencils and gold coin in previous years, I still check off a handkerchief, offering, biro and keys.

In the 1970’s, I read the books of Edith Schaeffer from ‘L’Abri’ in Switzerland. She wrote about taking children to worship and showed examples of some of the notes and stick figure drawings she did to help her children and then her grandchildren follow a sermon. I pursued this practice with my pre-school children. Once they were at school, I encouraged them to make their own notes.

Before the children went to school, we taught them short memory verses. While they sat waiting for the service to begin, I showed them where these verses came from in the Bible, and encouraged them to pick out the words. What better way to learn to read than by reading the Scripture! One memorable verse was “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” The sense of achievement of a four-year-old when he realized he had just read a long word like ‘beginning’ is palpable.

Of course, those days were not all good days. By the time I had four children, one a baby and one a very active five-year-old with two in between, our pew was a busy place. Occasionally a toddler would break free and run up to join her father in the pulpit. I was mortified and ashamed with my lack of control, especially as Grandma Gilmour and Auntie Sidney sat right behind us. I felt the weight of criticism of the whole congregation on my shoulders. I needn’t have worried. I know now that they were on my side. Then one Sunday, little Duncan fell through the back of the pew and hit his head. Boys make noise, and he certainly did on this occasion! Everyone heard the rumpus and people came from all over to help. The two Gilmour ladies offered to have Stuart James sit between them. From then on, SJ sat with young Reg between Reg’s grandmother and auntie. That was mutually agreeable to all parties and certainly gave me a break.

There was the occasion when stronger measures were needed. Elder Ted Little told me that most children, especially little boys, need one good spanking on the bottom for misbehaviour in church. His advice was that that encounter set them up for the rest of their lives. As the nurture and admonition fell on my shoulders on a Sunday morning, I took his advice. Both little boys, before they went to school, were taken outside once and received their measure of discipline. The Elder’s advice was good and his prediction held true.

Where should the minister’s family sit in church? At Ashfield in Sydney I noticed faded gold lettering “Manse Pew” on the back right-hand seat. Someone told me this back pew was called ‘sinner’s row’ at her home church in Scotland. That may line up with the common belief that minister’s children turn out badly. I preferred to sit in the second front pew right-hand side when I had children with me. There they could see all that was happening out front and not what was happening in the pews. They knew their father could see them. Although they were fully exposed to the view of the congregation and any critical eyes in it, I believe they were less aware of this sort of thing than when we sat further back. There were those who objected to children being in worship and who turned to frown at every peep. Generally, worship was a positive experience for our children, and I grew to love those other worshippers who helped make it positive.

In later years, I usually sat up the back and worked the overhead projection. As well, I had a roll of regular worshippers that I marked off – “Marion’s Little White Book”. I started marking my roll so that people wouldn’t get forgotten. We have had people away sick and no one has realized. From the back corner I can check names so that we know who has not been for a while, and find out if they are in need of a visit.

For many years, I invited people home for lunch in an effort to get to know the members as well as to welcome visitors. This did not satisfy me, though, as I realized there were people who never received an invitation. So we devised a scheme that meant everyone on the roll at St Stephen’s did have an opportunity to come to our place.

On nine Sundays in 2008, we served High Tea at 4 o’clock on winter afternoons. Our Elders have a certain number of people under their care, usually ten or twelve. So we invited each Elder and his people as a group. Each Elder spoke at the beginning of the programme, telling something of his relationship with Christ, something of his personal experience with God. (In 2014, we are did this again, introducing our new pastoral assistants and their wives.)

I researched what a traditional High Tea consisted of, and served something hot and savoury along with cakes and slices, not forgetting cucumber sandwiches. The bone-china cups, saucers and silver apostle spoons Stuart’s mother gave me sat waiting for tea to be poured from a china teapot. Sometimes there were children present, and not a thing was broken, even though the china is quite old. I have found that children live up to the standard you set on special occasions.

In 2008, those Sundays were a rush and Stuart had to be well prepared beforehand for his evening service. In 2014, other preachers took care of the evening services so that Stuart could give his full attention to his guests (and help me get ready!).

Many churches in Tamworth no longer have an evening service and we often welcomed travellers wanting to worship God in the evening. I’m glad we had an evening service, though I’m not sure why more of our congregation don’t make a priority of it. It is a wonderful personal discipline for keeping the whole Sabbath Day holy: it is a more intimate experience of worship and fellowship. On a summer’s eve St Stephen’s building has a beauty that it lacks during the day. If you stand in the car park you see the varied moods of the mountains all around; turning around you see it all reflected in the large panes of glass along the front of both buildings. At twilight, the resident gum trees frame the picture and look more splendid than ever in reflection. There’s a new deeper world in that wall of mirrors. In winter, you see the twinkling of the City of Lights, reminding us to let our light so shine …

I did not take my small children to 7.30pm evening service as they had to be in bed and get a good sleep for school the next day. Once they reached double figures they were keen to go with Daddy at night, especially when we changed the service time to 6.30pm. As teenagers, they enjoyed helping with the music, learning lessons for life in being useful in the service of God.

On Sunday, as on no other day, we are dealing with spiritual realities. It is hardly surprising then that this is a day when we are often under attack from the evil one. He finds the chinks in our armour, sloth, unbelief, impatience, anger, jealousy to name a few. How often have I dragged my feet up King’s Hill, just not wanting to be there? The bitter encounters, irate phone calls or critical letters weighed more with me than the sweet, loving words of Jesus! How often has anger welled up inside me at a fellow worshipper who has crossed or annoyed me! How often, after severe disappointment, have I questioned God’s sovereignty in placing us on this little hill of all the many hills and valleys and plains needing someone to minister! “You shall not covet” rounds off “I am the Lord your God… You shall have no other God before me.” And it is on the Lord’s Day, more than any other, that we test the meaning of God’s Word in our lives.

This is the hill where Christ required Stuart and me to stand firm. We learned to come up this hill eagerly, knowing that we will meet others who are joyful in worship and fellowship, others who are glad that we are there. We have learned to take Jesus’ advice and leap for joy as we climb the steep hills and stumble through the dark valleys of our ministry. After all, they are all the King’s hills and valleys.

 
CHAPTER 7 – SATURDAY
Preparation for the Sabbath

What is Saturday for? “TGIF – Thank God it’s Friday” was a common expletive when I was school teaching. For many Australians it means two days when they can please themselves: sleep in, play sport, garden, do housework, go shopping and even ‘get stoned’. The Christian, too, thanks God as he or she looks forward to meeting with other Believers for worship and fellowship on the Lord’s Day.

Very early in our ministry, we realized the need to make sure things were in order before Sunday actually dawned. Clothes, especially when we had small children; food, when we were expecting guests; house, clean and tidy to receive those guests; and these were only the material considerations. Ministry of Word and Sacrament leaves little room for pleasing oneself on the weekend.

My Grandfather White was a man who took the Bible as his standard for belief and behaviour. Grandfather owned an orchard employing at least four workers, more at harvest. His rule for Saturday was for his family and employees to work hard until the midday meal. At noon, worked ceased until Monday morning. It did not matter that the truck of produce had to leave for the rail-head early Monday morning. He and his family got up even earlier if there were fruit or vegetables still to be loaded.

My grandparents had a tennis court and a well-used set of golf clubs. They encouraged their children to play sport and be the best that they could be. One aunt was a tennis champion and my father was a surf lifesaver and won trophies in wrestling and marksmanship. However, sport was for Saturday afternoon. If you needed to practise, there was time early morning and after work during the week. No sport was played on Sunday. This then was the high standard in which I was raised. “Honour the Sabbath Day to keep it holy…” starts on Saturday.

Stuart and I have never been as committed to competitive sport as some of our forebears: the reasons being Stuart’s heart murmur and my natural dislike of competition, especially if I couldn’t win! Thus we have not joined sporting clubs. We did, however, make it possible for the children to play school team sports on Saturday. I always found it hard to get to the netball field on time with all the other jobs I had to do on Saturday.

Stuart and I had many conversations with a dear neighbour during her 10 year struggle with cancer. Three times she came back from the brink of death because she was not ready to meet God. A nurse at the Palliative Care ward encouraged her to get ready to meet God. Betty was brought up in the church and with her husband was heavily involved in a Young Marrieds Group.

“Why did you stop going to church?” we wondered.

She told us before we asked. “Sunday sport! We stopped going when the children got involved in sport on Sunday, and we never went back.”

When she knew her time was short, told us repeatedly that she hoped our prayers would get her through.

“But Betty, you have to talk to God yourself,” we both told her.

And on Stuart’s last visit she whispered, “I am talking to God myself.” Our prayers and conversations were not in vain.

How many wandering families may still be worshipping God on the His Day, had they not lowered their standards and kept sport for Saturday?

Some people pooh-pooh the notion that a minister needs to stay in on Saturday night in order to be ready for Sunday.

“He’s had all week to prepare,” sneered one youth group leader to me.

That is true. Stuart spends Monday preparing the outlines of two sermons for the next Sunday. He rarely recycles sermons. His messages are part of his walk with God and his daily feeding on the Bread of Life. The spiritual issues he addresses are matters that have affected those around him that week. On Saturday night after dinner, Stuart goes to his study and does not come out until he is satisfied that his message is from God for his people. This is not just a preparation of the head but pre-eminently of the spirit, a time of prayer and meditation, a coming apart with the Lord in order to be ready to lead people in worship. For most of the years of ministry, I found Saturday night a good time to do the ironing. Since I turned 65, I have tried to get all the jobs done during the daylight hours so that I do not have to work after dinner at night.

And so, we rarely accept invitations to go out on Saturday night. I know many people have found this hard to understand. However, God taught Stuart and me when we were quite young, that we are not super-heroes! We are very aware that we cannot do everything. We see our strict routine as a coping mechanism, of disciplining ourselves to fulfil the tasks God has given us. We want to finish the course God has set before us, and that may not happen if we do not pace ourselves according to our strengths and weaknesses. We know there are far more energetic and competent people than ourselves who can work faster and get more done. We have to live within our limitations and apologise to those who may feel hurt that we have not spent more time socially with them.

In books about pioneering days, we read how the whole family followed each other in a tub in front of the fire for their weekly bath on Saturday night. Cleanliness is next to godliness and our Christian forebears made sure they were clean for Sunday. When I was growing up, we washed our hair in the sink on Saturday morning so that it was nice and shiny for Sunday. (Those were the days of dependence on tank water. I was fifteen before we had a bathroom that sported a shower, long considered by Committees of Management as too wasteful of the precious commodities of water and money.) It is no longer necessary to have such strictures. However, we have chosen our own little cleansing rite ahead of Sunday. I have made it my practise to change the bed linen and night clothes on Saturday. What a delightful feeling it is to slip, all fresh and clean, between the crispy sheets and recline our heads on sun-dried pillow cases each Saturday night!

Preparation for the Sabbath! A phrase we read about in connection with the burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus! Without preparation on Saturday, Sunday would not be the precious day it is. At St Stephen’s, as in many churches, faithful women, and men as well, take time on Saturday to prepare the place of worship for Sunday Worship. What a privilege it is to sweep, mop, wash, vacuum, dust and arrange flowers for the Lord’s Day! These are our offerings of time and skill and energy given to Him! Our choir often practises on Saturday in preparation to offer the sacrifice of praise to the Lord.

In the past, the Evil One has put his dirty mark on even these forms of loving service. Very few churches have choirs any more. “Too many chiefs and not enough Indians,” one elder remarked wryly. Even arranging flowers has come under attack. More than twenty years ago, a pleasant, quiet woman offered to take her turn on the flower roster. She came to me at the Manse on Saturday afternoon for advice. She had too many flowers for one large vase and would like to put a small vase on the corner of the pulpit. Another woman had decreed exactly where flowers should be placed, and my visitor was nervous that she would get in trouble. I walked over to the church, said that I would love to see some flowers on the pulpit, and admired her work. Next morning, I arrived for worship. Lo and Behold! The lovely vase of flowers had been taken down and put on the step below. I knew who had done that and I was having none of it. I took a deep breath, marched out in front of the guilty party and those gathered in the pews, and replaced the arrangement where its artist had put it. I was not challenged, then or since. I had taken the higher ground and never since have individuals taken it upon themselves to decree where the flowers should or should not be placed. (The same trouble-maker tried to ban wattle from flower arrangements, saying it brought evil spirits.)

And so the curtain closes on a day well spent. We go to rest knowing that, unless the Lord returns for us in the night, we will wake up to another day in which to glorify Him and enjoy Him, looking forward to worshipping Him in fellowship with others of like minds and hearts. “Six days you shall labour and do all your work,” God told Moses. On Saturday, we have the satisfaction of striving to complete the week’s work in preparation for God’s day of rest.

 

 
CHAPTER 8 THE LORD’S DAY

Sunrise! The back of our house gives a view of the hills that ring the Peel Valley to the south-west. Between us and the hills is a long gently sloping ridge of open farmland. For much of the year, it is golden brown. We see many spectacular sunsets when the hills become deep blue, the ridge a shadow and the heavens declare the glory of God. This Lord’s Day morning, though, it was the sunrise from the east that lit up the view of the west. The whole western aspect was clouded over while the east was clear. The rising sun shone underneath the huge blue-black billows. The fields were cloth of gold edging the blue-black velvet of the sky. The contrast was exceptional. I went inside for a moment and when I came out again, the glory was no more. Clouds hid the sun in the east and the whole sky looked bleak and grey.

The sun rising in all its splendour reminds us of the Sun of Righteousness who shall rise with healing in His wings for the health of the nations. His splendour shines above and beneath the threatening clouds. While His light shines, all is glorious: when He hides His face, life becomes dull and grey.

Grandfather never referred to the day as Sunday: the pre-Christian day to worship the sun. It was always THE LORD’S DAY, the day when Jesus rose from the dead. After breakfast with the family, he read aloud one of the four gospel accounts in rotation at the breakfast table each Lord’s Day. Five of the eight children at this table gave their lives to the service of Christ and His church, four of them starting in overseas missionary work as young people.

I enjoyed working hard on Saturday, especially when we had babies, so that I might relax from physical labour on the Lord’s Day. I rarely even washed nappies on Sunday. Of course, our Lord Jesus set the Christian perspective when he said to the Pharisees “The Sabbath was made for man: not man for the Sabbath.” Accordingly, if I needed to wash on the Sabbath, that was fine, but I preferred not to make a habit of it.

The issue of personal piety arose when I was a child. My father loved nothing better than to take us swimming on hot summer afternoons. Usually it was at the swimming hole near the bridge over the South Pine River at Bald Hills. He was passionate about teaching us to swim. At the same time, he was preaching about sport becoming an idol that took people away from worshipping the One True God. There were still plenty of church people who upheld Sabbath rest in those days, but the decline in numbers of children and young people was an indication of the power of Sunday sport. The discerning understood what a “pied piper” Sunday sport would become.

So even on the hottest mid-summer Sunday afternoons, the seven little Whites did not go swimming. It was mostly an academic issue because Dad was so busy with three or four services in three or four different locations. “But what about holidays?” we asked. Dad and Mum talked it over with us, and decided that in light of Jesus’ admonition to the Pharisees, we could go swimming on Sunday afternoon on holidays. As we usually took holidays at the beach we would not likely stumble any “weaker brethren” or upset any members of our congregation. Now-a-days, there are very few Church members left who even remember those rules and so the offering is not likely to drop if the minister’s family kicks a ball around or goes swimming on a Sunday afternoon. Stuart and I still believe that Christians should draw a line across organized sport on the Lord’s Day.

We are considered rather eccentric even wrong to promote such a high view of the Lord’s Day. At Miles, there was a regular Monday cattle sale. Most of our elders were farmers and had to take their cattle to the sale-yard on Sunday afternoon. However, our Session Clerk and his brother worked together and bought a truck suitable to take their cattle to the sale in Oakey on Tuesday. Their commitment to maintain Sunday as a day of rest cost them time and money, but they looked for and received the blessing of the Lord on their business. “Then that honour Me, I will honour!”

When we first came to Tamworth, a Christian from another denomination educated me about the new liberation for Christians. “As long as I go to Bible Study Home Group during the week, I do not have to go to church on Sunday,” she told me. “It is wrong to prohibit sport on Sunday. We have freedom in Christ. We need to be out witnessing to people where they are on the sports field on Sunday.”

As far as I’m concerned, any Christian minister preaching this doctrine is shooting himself in the foot. Christians have six days in the week to labour and witness and only one when we are commanded to meet together to worship and fellowship. Once our Christian activity on other days of the week becomes more important than Sabbath worship and even keeps us from it, the church is in trouble. In lands where the church is under severe persecution, Christians cling to corporate worship on the Lord’s Day as something precious. They are willing to go to prison and even die for this privilege.

When Stuart was a student for the ministry, we observed the effect modern ideas of “Doing Church” had on people in the pew. The imbalance distressed us when a report on the current inter-church football competition took 20 minutes and the sermon took ten. This service became more and more a concert to entertain people in the pew during our time there. We could not rely on meeting up with friends because they had been too busy with church meetings through the week. They needed Sunday to relax and catch up at home. This large vibrant congregation has recently planted a new congregation – one church plant in forty years. St Stephen’s, in all its weakness and struggle, has planted two congregations (Moonbi and TCPC) and re-established another (Manilla) in 20 years.

We are amply rewarded as we look back on Sunday as the focus of our week, the mountain top. We thank God as we lay down our burden of full-time ministry, that there are others, including our own children, to take it up. As they feed on the Living Bread and drink from the Water of Life, may the Lord give them all the wisdom and strength they need, as well as a good serving of perseverance!

 

 

– HONOUR THE SABBATH DAY!

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Ecclesiastes 5:1

I see children climbing on the rock wall on their way up King’s Hill to St Stephen’s, Tamworth. Soon, an old woman comes round the corner and chases them away. I think of these words from Ecclesiastes when I see someone with reduced mobility slowly climbing the steep hill path. King’s Hill was named after Gidley King, nephew of the colonial Governor King. Yet it seems right to worship the King of kings on this hill-top. All of Scripture sings of going up the hill of the Lord, glorious Mount Zion, city of the great King, to worship Him. We are more privileged than many Christians, even in Tamworth, to have our church building sitting on the top of a hill, especially a hill that bears a name like King’s Hill.

And yet if you go over the river and up to Oxley Lookout, King’s Hill hardly stands out. In the bigger picture its steep roads and paths hardly count. They look quite flat. Flagstaff Mountain is the king of mountains surrounding the Peel Valley at Tamworth. And so, perspective helps to keep us humble and reminds me that today’s steep climb will be of no consequence when we reach the city of the great King.

For Stuart and me, Sunday is the Flagstaff Mountain-top of the week. Other days lead up to it, and those following are a descent from the summit. The Lord’s Day is a full day in a clergy household, the most exhausting and at times the most stressful. Very early in our ministry Stuart and I realized that as Sunday is so demanding, we needed Saturday to be our ‘preparation for the Sabbath’. We needed to prepare the way. This meant sacrificing many weekend pleasures that others enjoy.

Some people like to joke that ministers work only on Sundays. That is a joke! A minister is on-call any time of the day or night, any day of the week, besides having a programme that often fills up 60 or more hours a week. Only this week as I write, Stuart was called to the hospital in the middle of the night. After his heart attack in 2001, Stuart tried, with limited success, to cut back to the proverbial 40 hours a week. In the service of our great King, we count all the hours as a joy and a privilege. It is only when the body starts to wear out that time needs to be measured.

There’s no sleeping-in on Sunday morning. Quiet Time, breakfast and family prayers all have to run like clockwork. Most mornings there is time to listen to the headlines just in case there is any earth-shattering news. With new technology, one has simply to tap the screen and up come the news headlines at any time. It is a bit disconcerting when a person has worked their whole morning routine around the 7.45 news since childhood! And yet, tapping the iPad comes with a certain relief. I don’t have to listen to the cynicism and atheistic bias of the secular media on the Lord’s Day.

In recent years we have taken to cleaning our spectacles in the hot washing-up suds on Sunday morning. One morning, we arrived at St Stephen’s and everything seemed blurred to me. Stuart started the service and discovered that he couldn’t read clearly. Then we realized simultaneously: he had my glasses on and I had his. They had been mixed up in the washing. Since then I have procured a pink pair that are not so easy to confuse. Glitches like this, rather than drawing criticism from our congregation as once I feared, now elicit smiles or chuckles.

In our early years when we had babies and young children, Sunday mornings before church were particularly rushed. One little daughter liked to make an issue of what she wore to church. In particular she did not want to wear a matching outfit with her sister. There was one Sunday morning run-in when I was away having a new baby. Stuart’s parents were holding the fort and Nanna remembered that battle of the wills for a long time.

One advantage of living near the church was getting to church on time. We never had a big problem with punctuality, though I know some ministry families do. I guess both Stuart and I were raised by World War II veterans who required their children to be on parade on time, and this flowed through to our own adult habits.

We time things so that Stuart has half an hour to meditate in his study before we leave for the service. I have a mental check-list before I step out the front door. Beside the children’s notebooks, pencils and gold coin in previous years, I still check off a handkerchief, offering, biro and keys.

In the 1970’s, I read the books of Edith Schaeffer from ‘L’Abri’ in Switzerland. She wrote about taking children to worship and showed examples of some of the notes and stick figure drawings she did to help her children and then her grandchildren follow a sermon. I pursued this practice with my pre-school children. Once they were at school, I encouraged them to make their own notes.

Before the children went to school, we taught them short memory verses. While they sat waiting for the service to begin, I showed them where these verses came from in the Bible, and encouraged them to pick out the words. What better way to learn to read than by reading the Scripture! One memorable verse was “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” The sense of achievement of a four-year-old when he realized he had just read a long word like ‘beginning’ is palpable.

Of course, those days were not all good days. By the time I had four children, one a baby and one a very active five-year-old with two in between, our pew was a busy place. Occasionally a toddler would break free and run up to join her father in the pulpit. I was mortified and ashamed with my lack of control, especially as Grandma Gilmour and Auntie Sidney sat right behind us. I felt the weight of criticism of the whole congregation on my shoulders. I needn’t have worried. I know now that they were on my side. Then one Sunday, little Duncan fell through the back of the pew and hit his head. Boys make noise, and he certainly did on this occasion! Everyone heard the rumpus and people came from all over to help. The two Gilmour ladies offered to have Stuart James sit between them. From then on, SJ sat with young Reg between Reg’s grandmother and auntie. That was mutually agreeable to all parties and certainly gave me a break.

There was the occasion when stronger measures were needed. Elder Ted Little told me that most children, especially little boys, need one good spanking on the bottom for misbehaviour in church. His advice was that that encounter set them up for the rest of their lives. As the nurture and admonition fell on my shoulders on a Sunday morning, I took his advice. Both little boys, before they went to school, were taken outside once and received their measure of discipline. The Elder’s advice was good and his prediction held true.

Where should the minister’s family sit in church? At Ashfield in Sydney I noticed faded gold lettering “Manse Pew” on the back right-hand seat. Someone told me this back pew was called ‘sinner’s row’ at her home church in Scotland. That may line up with the common belief that minister’s children turn out badly. I preferred to sit in the second front pew right-hand side when I had children with me. There they could see all that was happening out front and not what was happening in the pews. They knew their father could see them. Although they were fully exposed to the view of the congregation and any critical eyes in it, I believe they were less aware of this sort of thing than when we sat further back. There were those who objected to children being in worship and who turned to frown at every peep. Generally, worship was a positive experience for our children, and I grew to love those other worshippers who helped make it positive.

In later years, I usually sat up the back and worked the overhead projection. As well, I had a roll of regular worshippers that I marked off – “Marion’s Little White Book”. I started marking my roll so that people wouldn’t get forgotten. We have had people away sick and no one has realized. From the back corner I can check names so that we know who has not been for a while, and find out if they are in need of a visit.

For many years, I invited people home for lunch in an effort to get to know the members as well as to welcome visitors. This did not satisfy me, though, as I realized there were people who never received an invitation. So we devised a scheme that meant everyone on the roll at St Stephen’s did have an opportunity to come to our place.

On nine Sundays in 2008, we served High Tea at 4 o’clock on winter afternoons. Our Elders have a certain number of people under their care, usually ten or twelve. So we invited each Elder and his people as a group. Each Elder spoke at the beginning of the programme, telling something of his relationship with Christ, something of his personal experience with God. (In 2014, we are did this again, introducing our new pastoral assistants and their wives.)

I researched what a traditional High Tea consisted of, and served something hot and savoury along with cakes and slices, not forgetting cucumber sandwiches. The bone-china cups, saucers and silver apostle spoons Stuart’s mother gave me sat waiting for tea to be poured from a china teapot. Sometimes there were children present, and not a thing was broken, even though the china is quite old. I have found that children live up to the standard you set on special occasions.

In 2008, those Sundays were a rush and Stuart had to be well prepared beforehand for his evening service. In 2014, other preachers took care of the evening services so that Stuart could give his full attention to his guests (and help me get ready!).

Many churches in Tamworth no longer have an evening service and we often welcomed travellers wanting to worship God in the evening. I’m glad we had an evening service, though I’m not sure why more of our congregation don’t make a priority of it. It is a wonderful personal discipline for keeping the whole Sabbath Day holy: it is a more intimate experience of worship and fellowship. On a summer’s eve St Stephen’s building has a beauty that it lacks during the day. If you stand in the car park you see the varied moods of the mountains all around; turning around you see it all reflected in the large panes of glass along the front of both buildings. At twilight, the resident gum trees frame the picture and look more splendid than ever in reflection. There’s a new deeper world in that wall of mirrors. In winter, you see the twinkling of the City of Lights, reminding us to let our light so shine …

I did not take my small children to 7.30pm evening service as they had to be in bed and get a good sleep for school the next day. Once they reached double figures they were keen to go with Daddy at night, especially when we changed the service time to 6.30pm. As teenagers, they enjoyed helping with the music, learning lessons for life in being useful in the service of God.

On Sunday, as on no other day, we are dealing with spiritual realities. It is hardly surprising then that this is a day when we are often under attack from the evil one. He finds the chinks in our armour, sloth, unbelief, impatience, anger, jealousy to name a few. How often have I dragged my feet up King’s Hill, just not wanting to be there? The bitter encounters, irate phone calls or critical letters weighed more with me than the sweet, loving words of Jesus! How often has anger welled up inside me at a fellow worshipper who has crossed or annoyed me! How often, after severe disappointment, have I questioned God’s sovereignty in placing us on this little hill of all the many hills and valleys and plains needing someone to minister! “You shall not covet” rounds off “I am the Lord your God… You shall have no other God before me.” And it is on the Lord’s Day, more than any other, that we test the meaning of God’s Word in our lives.

This is the hill where Christ required Stuart and me to stand firm. We learned to come up this hill eagerly, knowing that we will meet others who are joyful in worship and fellowship, others who are glad that we are there. We have learned to take Jesus’ advice and leap for joy as we climb the steep hills and stumble through the dark valleys of our ministry. After all, they are all the King’s hills and valleys.

 
CHAPTER 7 – SATURDAY
Preparation for the Sabbath

What is Saturday for? “TGIF – Thank God it’s Friday” was a common expletive when I was school teaching. For many Australians it means two days when they can please themselves: sleep in, play sport, garden, do housework, go shopping and even ‘get stoned’. The Christian, too, thanks God as he or she looks forward to meeting with other Believers for worship and fellowship on the Lord’s Day.

Very early in our ministry, we realized the need to make sure things were in order before Sunday actually dawned. Clothes, especially when we had small children; food, when we were expecting guests; house, clean and tidy to receive those guests; and these were only the material considerations. Ministry of Word and Sacrament leaves little room for pleasing oneself on the weekend.

My Grandfather White was a man who took the Bible as his standard for belief and behaviour. Grandfather owned an orchard employing at least four workers, more at harvest. His rule for Saturday was for his family and employees to work hard until the midday meal. At noon, worked ceased until Monday morning. It did not matter that the truck of produce had to leave for the rail-head early Monday morning. He and his family got up even earlier if there were fruit or vegetables still to be loaded.

My grandparents had a tennis court and a well-used set of golf clubs. They encouraged their children to play sport and be the best that they could be. One aunt was a tennis champion and my father was a surf lifesaver and won trophies in wrestling and marksmanship. However, sport was for Saturday afternoon. If you needed to practise, there was time early morning and after work during the week. No sport was played on Sunday. This then was the high standard in which I was raised. “Honour the Sabbath Day to keep it holy…” starts on Saturday.

Stuart and I have never been as committed to competitive sport as some of our forebears: the reasons being Stuart’s heart murmur and my natural dislike of competition, especially if I couldn’t win! Thus we have not joined sporting clubs. We did, however, make it possible for the children to play school team sports on Saturday. I always found it hard to get to the netball field on time with all the other jobs I had to do on Saturday.

Stuart and I had many conversations with a dear neighbour during her 10 year struggle with cancer. Three times she came back from the brink of death because she was not ready to meet God. A nurse at the Palliative Care ward encouraged her to get ready to meet God. Betty was brought up in the church and with her husband was heavily involved in a Young Marrieds Group.

“Why did you stop going to church?” we wondered.

She told us before we asked. “Sunday sport! We stopped going when the children got involved in sport on Sunday, and we never went back.”

When she knew her time was short, told us repeatedly that she hoped our prayers would get her through.

“But Betty, you have to talk to God yourself,” we both told her.

And on Stuart’s last visit she whispered, “I am talking to God myself.” Our prayers and conversations were not in vain.

How many wandering families may still be worshipping God on the His Day, had they not lowered their standards and kept sport for Saturday?

Some people pooh-pooh the notion that a minister needs to stay in on Saturday night in order to be ready for Sunday.

“He’s had all week to prepare,” sneered one youth group leader to me.

That is true. Stuart spends Monday preparing the outlines of two sermons for the next Sunday. He rarely recycles sermons. His messages are part of his walk with God and his daily feeding on the Bread of Life. The spiritual issues he addresses are matters that have affected those around him that week. On Saturday night after dinner, Stuart goes to his study and does not come out until he is satisfied that his message is from God for his people. This is not just a preparation of the head but pre-eminently of the spirit, a time of prayer and meditation, a coming apart with the Lord in order to be ready to lead people in worship. For most of the years of ministry, I found Saturday night a good time to do the ironing. Since I turned 65, I have tried to get all the jobs done during the daylight hours so that I do not have to work after dinner at night.

And so, we rarely accept invitations to go out on Saturday night. I know many people have found this hard to understand. However, God taught Stuart and me when we were quite young, that we are not super-heroes! We are very aware that we cannot do everything. We see our strict routine as a coping mechanism, of disciplining ourselves to fulfil the tasks God has given us. We want to finish the course God has set before us, and that may not happen if we do not pace ourselves according to our strengths and weaknesses. We know there are far more energetic and competent people than ourselves who can work faster and get more done. We have to live within our limitations and apologise to those who may feel hurt that we have not spent more time socially with them.

In books about pioneering days, we read how the whole family followed each other in a tub in front of the fire for their weekly bath on Saturday night. Cleanliness is next to godliness and our Christian forebears made sure they were clean for Sunday. When I was growing up, we washed our hair in the sink on Saturday morning so that it was nice and shiny for Sunday. (Those were the days of dependence on tank water. I was fifteen before we had a bathroom that sported a shower, long considered by Committees of Management as too wasteful of the precious commodities of water and money.) It is no longer necessary to have such strictures. However, we have chosen our own little cleansing rite ahead of Sunday. I have made it my practise to change the bed linen and night clothes on Saturday. What a delightful feeling it is to slip, all fresh and clean, between the crispy sheets and recline our heads on sun-dried pillow cases each Saturday night!

Preparation for the Sabbath! A phrase we read about in connection with the burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus! Without preparation on Saturday, Sunday would not be the precious day it is. At St Stephen’s, as in many churches, faithful women, and men as well, take time on Saturday to prepare the place of worship for Sunday Worship. What a privilege it is to sweep, mop, wash, vacuum, dust and arrange flowers for the Lord’s Day! These are our offerings of time and skill and energy given to Him! Our choir often practises on Saturday in preparation to offer the sacrifice of praise to the Lord.

In the past, the Evil One has put his dirty mark on even these forms of loving service. Very few churches have choirs any more. “Too many chiefs and not enough Indians,” one elder remarked wryly. Even arranging flowers has come under attack. More than twenty years ago, a pleasant, quiet woman offered to take her turn on the flower roster. She came to me at the Manse on Saturday afternoon for advice. She had too many flowers for one large vase and would like to put a small vase on the corner of the pulpit. Another woman had decreed exactly where flowers should be placed, and my visitor was nervous that she would get in trouble. I walked over to the church, said that I would love to see some flowers on the pulpit, and admired her work. Next morning, I arrived for worship. Lo and Behold! The lovely vase of flowers had been taken down and put on the step below. I knew who had done that and I was having none of it. I took a deep breath, marched out in front of the guilty party and those gathered in the pews, and replaced the arrangement where its artist had put it. I was not challenged, then or since. I had taken the higher ground and never since have individuals taken it upon themselves to decree where the flowers should or should not be placed. (The same trouble-maker tried to ban wattle from flower arrangements, saying it brought evil spirits.)

And so the curtain closes on a day well spent. We go to rest knowing that, unless the Lord returns for us in the night, we will wake up to another day in which to glorify Him and enjoy Him, looking forward to worshipping Him in fellowship with others of like minds and hearts. “Six days you shall labour and do all your work,” God told Moses. On Saturday, we have the satisfaction of striving to complete the week’s work in preparation for God’s day of rest.

 

 
CHAPTER 8 THE LORD’S DAY

Sunrise! The back of our house gives a view of the hills that ring the Peel Valley to the south-west. Between us and the hills is a long gently sloping ridge of open farmland. For much of the year, it is golden brown. We see many spectacular sunsets when the hills become deep blue, the ridge a shadow and the heavens declare the glory of God. This Lord’s Day morning, though, it was the sunrise from the east that lit up the view of the west. The whole western aspect was clouded over while the east was clear. The rising sun shone underneath the huge blue-black billows. The fields were cloth of gold edging the blue-black velvet of the sky. The contrast was exceptional. I went inside for a moment and when I came out again, the glory was no more. Clouds hid the sun in the east and the whole sky looked bleak and grey.

The sun rising in all its splendour reminds us of the Sun of Righteousness who shall rise with healing in His wings for the health of the nations. His splendour shines above and beneath the threatening clouds. While His light shines, all is glorious: when He hides His face, life becomes dull and grey.

Grandfather never referred to the day as Sunday: the pre-Christian day to worship the sun. It was always THE LORD’S DAY, the day when Jesus rose from the dead. After breakfast with the family, he read aloud one of the four gospel accounts in rotation at the breakfast table each Lord’s Day. Five of the eight children at this table gave their lives to the service of Christ and His church, four of them starting in overseas missionary work as young people.

I enjoyed working hard on Saturday, especially when we had babies, so that I might relax from physical labour on the Lord’s Day. I rarely even washed nappies on Sunday. Of course, our Lord Jesus set the Christian perspective when he said to the Pharisees “The Sabbath was made for man: not man for the Sabbath.” Accordingly, if I needed to wash on the Sabbath, that was fine, but I preferred not to make a habit of it.

The issue of personal piety arose when I was a child. My father loved nothing better than to take us swimming on hot summer afternoons. Usually it was at the swimming hole near the bridge over the South Pine River at Bald Hills. He was passionate about teaching us to swim. At the same time, he was preaching about sport becoming an idol that took people away from worshipping the One True God. There were still plenty of church people who upheld Sabbath rest in those days, but the decline in numbers of children and young people was an indication of the power of Sunday sport. The discerning understood what a “pied piper” Sunday sport would become.

So even on the hottest mid-summer Sunday afternoons, the seven little Whites did not go swimming. It was mostly an academic issue because Dad was so busy with three or four services in three or four different locations. “But what about holidays?” we asked. Dad and Mum talked it over with us, and decided that in light of Jesus’ admonition to the Pharisees, we could go swimming on Sunday afternoon on holidays. As we usually took holidays at the beach we would not likely stumble any “weaker brethren” or upset any members of our congregation. Now-a-days, there are very few Church members left who even remember those rules and so the offering is not likely to drop if the minister’s family kicks a ball around or goes swimming on a Sunday afternoon. Stuart and I still believe that Christians should draw a line across organized sport on the Lord’s Day.

We are considered rather eccentric even wrong to promote such a high view of the Lord’s Day. At Miles, there was a regular Monday cattle sale. Most of our elders were farmers and had to take their cattle to the sale-yard on Sunday afternoon. However, our Session Clerk and his brother worked together and bought a truck suitable to take their cattle to the sale in Oakey on Tuesday. Their commitment to maintain Sunday as a day of rest cost them time and money, but they looked for and received the blessing of the Lord on their business. “Then that honour Me, I will honour!”

When we first came to Tamworth, a Christian from another denomination educated me about the new liberation for Christians. “As long as I go to Bible Study Home Group during the week, I do not have to go to church on Sunday,” she told me. “It is wrong to prohibit sport on Sunday. We have freedom in Christ. We need to be out witnessing to people where they are on the sports field on Sunday.”

As far as I’m concerned, any Christian minister preaching this doctrine is shooting himself in the foot. Christians have six days in the week to labour and witness and only one when we are commanded to meet together to worship and fellowship. Once our Christian activity on other days of the week becomes more important than Sabbath worship and even keeps us from it, the church is in trouble. In lands where the church is under severe persecution, Christians cling to corporate worship on the Lord’s Day as something precious. They are willing to go to prison and even die for this privilege.

When Stuart was a student for the ministry, we observed the effect modern ideas of “Doing Church” had on people in the pew. The imbalance distressed us when a report on the current inter-church football competition took 20 minutes and the sermon took ten. This service became more and more a concert to entertain people in the pew during our time there. We could not rely on meeting up with friends because they had been too busy with church meetings through the week. They needed Sunday to relax and catch up at home. This large vibrant congregation has recently planted a new congregation – one church plant in forty years. St Stephen’s, in all its weakness and struggle, has planted two congregations (Moonbi and TCPC) and re-established another (Manilla) in 20 years.

We are amply rewarded as we look back on Sunday as the focus of our week, the mountain top. We thank God as we lay down our burden of full-time ministry, that there are others, including our own children, to take it up. As they feed on the Living Bread and drink from the Water of Life, may the Lord give them all the wisdom and strength they need, as well as a good serving of perseverance!

 

 

FOND FAREWELLS

IMG_0610

In July, our two sons and their wives, our two daughters and their husbands and our fourteen grandchildren came to spend a week together with us. They came from Northern Ireland, halfway round the world, South Australia, half a continent away and across New South Wales a day’s journey away. We had a wonderful week together and thank God for safety in travel and play, warm beds, good food, fellowship and strengthened friendships.

And then it was time to say goodbye!

Here is a poem I copied out for Katy when she went to live in the UK:

IMG_0670Mizpah

by Julia A. Baker

The Lord watch between thee and me while we are absent one from the other.           Genesis 31:49

Go thou thy way, and I go mine,
Apart, yet not afar;
Only a thin veil hangs between
The pathways where we are.
And “God keep watch ‘tween thee and me”;
This is my prayer;
He looks thy way, He looketh mine,
And keeps us near.

IMG_0608I know not where thy road may lie,
Or which way mine will be;
If mine will lead thro’ parching sands
And thine beside the sea;
Yet God keeps watch ‘tween thee and me,
So never fear;
He holds thy hands, He claspeth mine,”
And keeps us near.

Should wealth and fame perchance be thine,
And my lot lowly be,
Or you be sad and sorrowful,
And glory be for me,
Yet God keep watch ‘tween thee and me;
Both be His care;
One arm round thee and one round me
Will keep us near.

IMG_0604I sigh sometimes to see thy face,
But since this may not be,
I’ll leave thee to the care of Him
Who cares for thee and me.
“I’ll keep you both beneath my wings,”
This comforts, dear;                                                                                                                        One wing o’er thee and one o’er me,
Will keep us near.

And though our paths be separate,
And thy way is not mine,
Yet coming to the Mercy seat,
My soul will meet with thine.
And “God keep watch ‘tween thee and me,”
I’ll whisper there.
He blesseth thee, He blesseth me,
And we are near.

IMG_0606

FAMILIES AT WORSHIP

1981Family at Miles in wattle time

June 2017
To My Younger Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I want to encourage parents who bring their children to worship. This is so vital an issue because it is important to the welfare of both the church and the family.

Parents bringing children to worship need to be met with approval and assistance, not disapproval and discouragement. I am presenting this collection of my thoughts for the encouragement of parents who wish to have their children worship with them each Lord’s Day. It is not meant to cause argument or dissension. My prayerful hope is that the Holy Spirit will use these thoughts to strengthen couples who might be finding active or passive discouragement rather than active encouragement.

I have discovered to my delight, that there is a new generation of parents today who desire their children to worship with them and are willing to make the sacrifice this entails. Surely this is proof of much forgotten and despised biblical truth behind this practice. It is to me, anyway.

I have not made special reference to the needs of children with serious disabilities or children who will, in one sense, never grow up. Some of what I have written will not apply. If your child is one such, I am happy to talk with you individually. I was once a teacher of deaf children, some of whom had other disabilities.

Your older sister in Christ, Marion Andrews

1. TIME FOR EVERYTHING

“There is a time for everything under heaven”
Ecclesiastes 3:1 [Fb 23.5.17]

Parents who have sleepless nights with a teething child may not believe this. Our children will soon be no more. They grow up! So many people feel spiritually starved because their child         disturbs them in the sermon. Be willing to give up a few years for the training of your children. Be faithful at Worship and Bible Study in your youth. Look forward to having that time again later. If you don’t hear the sermon properly, don’t worry. There are years ahead, God willing, when you will wish they were beside you again.

2. GENERATIONS

“One generation will commend your works to another.”        Psalm 145:4

Have you been part of a Church where three or four generations of several families are together
worshipping God on a Sunday morning? A Church like that is a strong Church, regardless of numbers. Parents have passed their faith to their children from generation to generation.      They may not feel they are skilled at evangelizing and discipling outsiders, but they have quietly made disciples of their own children.   The Church is blessed with keen, active young people growing in the Lord. That’s a good start for further outreach and evangelism.

3. THE CLASH OF CYMBALS

“Praise Him with the clash of cymbals!”             Psalm 150:5

The atmosphere of Worship must not be synonymous with morgue-like serenity. Certainly there are some times in the church when one wants quiet reverence before the presence of the Lord. Excluding children from a funeral because they make a noise is one thing but keeping them from the weekly service for the same reason is against the spirit of the Scripture. Let’s teach them to make a right noise! Let us channel their noise to praise the Lord!

4. COMPLACENT CHRISTIANS

“Woe to you who are complacent in Zion!”    Amos 6:1

It is dangerous to let your own comfort come before the welfare of your children. It is dangerous to opt out of keeping control over your children in Church so that you can feel some spiritual blessing. Choosing a Church because someone else will mind your children is side-stepping your responsibility. When the church insists on doing the job of parents, it always does it badly. The church is not a spiritual massage parlour for parents, nor a fun fair for children. It is a training ground for disciples and families of disciples.

5. GETTING PAST THE BOUNCERS

“People were bringing little children to Jesus, but the disciples rebuked them.”            Mark 10:13

When parents love worshipping Jesus, they want their children to meet Him, too. They care enough to get up early, feed, wash and dress their little ones, to present them before the King of Kings on a Sunday morning. They are probably weary by the time they get to the place of worship. Are we like the disciples, who frowned, muttered and discouraged them? Let’s be like Jesus who went out of His way to welcome them.

6. CARE ENOUGH

“He must manage his family well, and see that his children obey him with proper respect.”                                                                        1 Timothy 3:4

It is possible to have controlled children. Fathers are responsible to see that children know the        limits and keep within them. When children start to walk and talk, they test the limits of discipline, especially in Church. At this stage, you may not be able to keep them both quiet and still.  Aim at controlling one thing at a time. In Church, aim at keeping them quiet, first. If their shoes are noisy, take them off. Perhaps, let them wander a little, but train them to be quiet while they do it. Leave noisy toys at home. Teach them to be considerate of others. When they get to school, their teachers will love you!

7. QUIET, CONFIDENT TODDLERS?

“In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.”           Isaiah 30:15

Here God links quietness and confidence as marks of strength. A quiet, confident child has inner strength. You probably don’t know too many small children like this. The toddler stage is when they can, at the feet of Jesus, become strong. It is the crucial age for parents to lead them in the Godly discipline that produces these qualities. Learn quietness and confidence first, yourself, from Jesus, and then teach your children. Teach them regular habits at home: teach them to sit still for meals and to be quiet and still for Bible Reading and prayers. If it were easy, it would not be so worth the trouble.

8.  FACE TO FACE

“I have made your face strong against their faces.”          Ezekiel 3:8

Ezekiel was sent to his own people. God told him they were impudent and hard-hearted. Parents may feel this way about their own “little people” as they seek to lead them to the Lord. Don’t swallow the humanist nonsense that they are basically good. They are sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, capable of both great good but also catastrophic evil. Ask God to make your face strong.  A smile from Mum or Dad can become their best reward; a frown their greatest distress. Your face can be more effective in controlling their behaviour than your hand – especially in Church! May God bless your efforts!

9. AMAZING GRACE

“God is able to make all grace abound towards you”        2Corinthians 9:8

What a useful phrase from our catechisms – “the means of grace”! What are the means of grace? The ordinary means of grace are prayer, the preaching and reading of the Word and the sacraments. These are the means the Lord uses to strengthen and increase our faith. They are the pathways God has given us for His grace to travel to us. God uses these means in practical ways that we can understand, but also in mysterious ways that puzzle and thrill us. We may not understand how these things can benefit small children; but they do.  Let God’s grace be transported to your children through the means He has given, and be amazed with how they respond.

10. LET THEM COME

“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come unto me’.”         Matthew 19:14

What had Jesus been doing when he rebuked the disciples? He had been preaching – about sex, of all things. At least two good reasons, some think, for the children to be elsewhere – the fact that he was preaching, and the subject he was preaching on. The wonderful thing is, Jesus didn’t think so.  He wanted them there.

11.    TO PLEASE JESUS

“Jesus was greatly displeased…”  Mark 10:14

Jesus had just finished a sermon on marriage and divorce. Out of the crowd came some people with young children. “Surely this was not the time nor the place for children,” thought the disciples. They rebuked the mothers, and made Jesus angry. The disciples were not to hinder anyone, much less a child, from coming to Him. Here, He admitted little children to be subjects of the kingdom of God. He advised his disciples to learn from them how to enter the kingdom of God.” There’s a riddle to work on! While we work on it, we are well advised to get used to children here if we want a part in Holy Zion, for of such is the kingdom of Heaven.

12. MOVE OVER!

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord.”                       Ephesians 6:1

Parents have to move over and adjust for their first baby, especially if he or she is of the screaming variety. The adjustment, however, should be temporary. It is then time for the child to move over for the parents. The home and its routine and relationships are to be determined by the parents, not the children. This is necessary, if the parents want their marriage to outlive the childhood of their offspring. We are to set up the sort of home life that can continue once the children have left home. Most children are visitors, passing through. As such, they are to live by the parents’ wishes, not the parents by theirs.  About six months is a good time to start checking who is boss.

13. FAMILY WORSHIP

“You shall teach God’s word diligently to your children when you sit in your house, when you lie down and when you rise up.”          Deuteronomy 6:7

This is where it all starts. For a child, this is one of the chief means of grace. Evening and morning Bible reading and prayer have proved their value over many generations of Christian families. Most families find meal times the best for family worship. Very young children can be started on short readings and prayers. Teaching them short memory verses is great. They will carry them into life. The lessons they learn in control of their bodies and tongues carry over to Church and School. They actually become capable of being still and quiet without a digital device in their hands!  – a rare skill for today’s children.

14. BRINGING INFANTS

“They also brought infants to Him…Jesus called them to Him.”              Luke 18:15&16

Infants cry for reasons we may or may not know. If a small baby cries in Church and we know why, we can do something about it – feed it, change it, hold its tummy. Sometimes babies cry and we are not clever enough to know what to do about it. This is where we can work together as the body of Christ. This is where an older woman can show compassion to a young mother, and take the child out if necessary. Some Churches have “Nanny” systems, pairing off families with people who are willing to help.  Let’s make mothers and babies welcome. Jesus did!

15. WHY?

“All the families of the nations shall worship before the Lord.”          Psalm 22:27

Removing children from worship was a practice that flooded our churches after World War II. It was the special brain-child of an unbelieving element in the church who believed that education was more important than worship. It seemed a good idea. Children were supposed to learn better at Sunday School, and babies don’t bother us at crèche. The trouble is, they don’t learn to worship. In the 1950’s, Protestant Churches in Australia had huge Sunday Schools. Why did so few of those children follow the Lord Jesus in adult life? They learnt about Jesus, but they did not learn to worship Him: His worth. That is what worship teaches us – God’s worth. When we know that, we love to worship week by week. We deprive our children and put their eternal welfare in jeopardy if they are not part of the worship of the Church.

16. OF THE HEART

“Old men and children – Praise the Lord.”     Psalm 148:12

Sunday Schools and crèches do not teach children to worship the Lord. Worship is a group activity of the heart across the generations. It is mysterious, beyond ourselves and not taught in classes. The Bible says we need Bible reading, singing, prayer, giving and preaching for worship. It says we need young men and girls, old men and children – all ages. When the Sunday School gets up to go out of the service, it seems that the ‘brightest and best’ go out. It is not only the children, but their teachers (it’s amazing how many are needed,) who leave sad spaces in the pews. Those left are deprived of their fellowship while the children are deprived of mystery.  There is a Pied Piper in our midst and the children are tripping after him. How few little lame boys are the only ones left of a whole generation when their childhood is gone?

17. WITH THE PEOPLE OF GOD

“The promise is for you and your children.”   Acts 2:39

Sunday Schools are a modern invention. Once, teaching of little children in the ways of God was done by parents, as the Bible commands. [Deut.6] Do we really believe the words of the Baptismal Service – that children are numbered with the people of God?  If so, why do we let them think they are not part of that group in worship. When they reach a most difficult age – about 14 – we expect them to start coming to church. Why should they, in their most rebellious years, suddenly want to be with all the “oldies”? It is the worst time to try to develop a good habit. For decades now in Australia, this has been a plughole through which many have drained away – many children of committed people. Worship substitutes are piping and dancing the children away, somewhere out of reach of their parents.

18. WHAT ABOUT SUNDAY SCHOOLS?

“When your son asks you, ‘What is the meaning of God’s Word?’ tell him…”                 Deuteronomy 6:20, 21

Most of the essential teaching in godliness should be done at home. Sunday Schools were started as an evangelistic outreach to unchurched children who could not read and write. With the level of illiteracy in today’s schools, Sunday Schools (or their week day substitute) may find a real purpose in doing what they were set up to do – teach literacy – teach children and adults to read, by learning to read the Bible. Christian parents, even though you send you children to day school to learn other subjects, home-school your children in and through the Bible day by day! Sunday Schools, get serious about outreach by using English as a Second Language lessons in the Bible for unreached children.

19. HANNAH AND SAMUEL

“And the young child Samuel worshipped the Lord there.”    I Samuel 1:28

How old was Samuel when Hannah left him worshipping at the temple? He was just weaned. The most ardent “Nursing Mother” rarely suckles her child past the toddler years. So, however we look at it, he was very young. The remarkable ministry of this man who anointed two great Kings began with worship in infancy:-

“Oh give me Samuel’s heart,
A lowly heart, that waits
Where You are in Your house
Or watches at Your gates
By day and night, – a heart that still
Moves at the breathing of Your will.”

20. HARD TIMES

“Here am I, and the children the Lord has given me.”    Isaiah 8:18

The Lord warned Isaiah not to follow the way of his people. He had to go it alone! – he and his children. “Many will stumble,
they will fall and be broken, they will be snared and be captured.
I will wait for the Lord, I will put my trust in Him.
Here am I, and the children the Lord has given me.
We are signs and symbols from the Lord Almighty.” Isaiah 8.

Our children are gifts from the Lord. They are precious. In hard times, when you have to stand alone, how wonderful to have your children standing with you! What a good start for revival!

21. TODDLER TAMING

“Fathers, bring them up in the training and discipline of the Lord.”     Ephesians 6:4

If you owned thoroughbred horses, the most precious and high-spirited of them would be given the most skilful and costly taming by one or two selected people. Since Tamworth acquired its equestrian centre, it has become the meeting place for people who own horses that cost a fortune. They roll into town in semi-trailers that have motor homes for people alongside horse boxes. These people keep an eagle-eye on their costly horses. One child is more precious than many thoroughbreds. He or she needs the most jealous care you can give. Don’t hand your small child over to many carers. God selected you as parents to be skilled trainers of your child. And God rewards His good and faithful servants.

IN CONCLUSION
Deuteronomy 6:7, 20, 21
Impress these commandments on your children.
Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road,
when you lie down and when you get up.
In the future, when your son asks you,
“What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?”
tell him: …