Alison Blake is our October contributor on EQUIP book club. Alison will be reviewing Respectable Sins by John Piper of Desiring God.
"I grew up, going to school and Sunday school in Caringbah, during the 60’s and 70’s, long before it was populated by hobbits or it was trendy to say “I live in the Shire”!
Like most of my friends growing up in that era, I regularly attended Sunday School. Although their faith was quiet and private, I benefited spiritually from the example of my parents who continued to follow Christ and attend church, at a time when, looking back, many churches were facing the assault of liberalism and secularism.
Despite my near perfect Sunday School attendance, I reached my teenage years confused about salvation and very aware I didn’t “get” the Christian gospel. At this time I’m sure my lifestyle led people to assume I was a Christian, but I knew I was far from saved and needed to sort out the “Jesus business” (important ministry principle – never assume the keen, good kid is converted!). Through the witness of older girls I met at my school ISCF group I moved churches in an attempt to find the missing pieces. I still can’t believe I did this at the age of 15 and can only attribute it to God’s Spirit moving to save me. I clearly remember praying, asking God to help me make sense of Jesus why his death was such a big deal. Though I wasn’t saved, God had taught me enough from the Bible and Sunday School to know how to pray, that God hears prayer, can be known by us and we need to follow him. Interestingly, whilst I was not saved, I was never conscious of being under God’s wrath, just that a living, personal relationship with him really mattered and I needed his help to know him.
A few months later God answered that prayer - I heard the gospel explained at an ISCF camp, by a student only a few years older than myself, and it finally made sense - Jesus died, in my place for my sins; salvation was mine if I repented and relied on him for my forgiveness. I committed my life to him at that time. I feel an affinity with morally upright, but confused Nicodemus! And it’s so reassuring to have experienced God going ahead of us, achieving his good and wise purposes in people’s lives, in his time, in ways that we may not yet, maybe never, see and comprehend.
I grew up in a family that valued books and reading. One of my earliest childhood memories is our weekly trip with Dad, on Monday night (very exciting!), to the local library. In the last years of primary school my teacher introduced us to the riches of Australian children’s literature – Colin Thiele, Patricia Wrightson, Hesba Brinsmead. I had embarked on a lifelong love of reading.
My favourite novel tends to be the last one I’ve enjoyed, so that’s Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel, a semi fictitious account of the life and impact of Thomas Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII. I enjoyed her writing style and the way she opened up the tumultuous world of the Tudors in the early1600’s. Recently Michael and I enjoyed the movie adaptation of Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance Of The Hedgehog. I guess I’m willing to try any novel that transports me to the life, places and times of other people, so I found Elizabeth Gilberts “Eat, Pray, Love” helpful to get inside the head of women unlike me. The books of Ian McEwan, Anne Tyler, Tracy Chevalier and Rose Tremain grab my attention, but I’ll happily read the old classics by the Austens, Brontes, Trollope and Elizabeth Gaskell. As our children were growing up I loved introducing them to lots of “old friends” from my childhood and discovering new book-friends. Thanks to the internet, I can now “meet” authors via their websites.
I’m married to Michael, and we have 2 adult children both now living and studying away from home, in Canberra and Wollongong. We’ve lived in the Narellan area, on the south-western fringes of Sydney, for nearly 17 years. We have the privilege of churching with God’s people at Narellan Anglican Church where Michael is the Senior Minister.
I enjoy contributing to the children’s and women’s ministry here, especially connecting with women whose lives are not like mine, as we open up the Scriptures together . I play tennis with a very special group of “not yet saved women”, go to the gym, (because I need to, not because I enjoy it!) and love the smells, sounds and sights of the beach.
Reading, words and books, like all God’s good gifts, can be misused. I find I need to exercise self control with my reading. Being an introvert by nature, books can be my respectable escape from other responsibilities, like people I need to catch up with, or reading my Bible and praying!
It’ll be challenging on many levels, but I’m very much looking forward to reading through Jerry Bridges’ Respectable Sins with the Book Club. I first read the book a few years ago, on the recommendation of a Christian friend. You’ve gotta love someone who cares enough about your godliness to suggest you read a book highlighting the sins you tolerate!"