Saturday, April 30, 2016

Devotional Thought : Psalm 89:15-17

Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, LORD. They rejoice in your name all day long; they celebrate your righteousness. For you are their glory and strength, and by your favor you exalt our horn. Psalm 89:15-17

Praising God is not something we do just when we are feeling emotionally warm and happy with our circumstances. When we understand God's greatness we are able to praise him regardless of what is going on in our lives because we know that what is happening in the spiritual realms is far more enduring than our temporary inconveniences. However it takes time to cultivate this perspective. Acclaiming God is a learned attitude that comes with spiritual maturity.

We can develop this attitude by considering God's perspective, to look beyond short-term annoyances and realizes that God's purposes are greater than we imagine. We learn to 'walk in the light of your presence', by seeking his ways which we find in Matthew 5:3-10. His ways teach us to be humble, undemanding, merciful, wholesome, peaceable and desirous for more of him. Whereas the ways of the world are full of self-promotion and self-preoccupation.

We celebrate his righteousness because we know that God has a plan to deal with evil and banish it forever. He achieve righteousness for us through Christ's death on the cross and we have hope for a future without wickedness. The world as we know it is coming to a culmination and we will have vindication.

God is the Source of our glory and strength. Through his Spirit working in our lives we are enabled to 'live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God' (Colossians 1:10).

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Book Review : Go Set A Watchman

Somehow I missed reading, To Kill A Mockingbird when I was young. I knew the story was set around racial prejudice issues and since it wasn't a subject that affected me, I never felt inclined to read it. I read Go Set A Watchman as part of my book club.

I once heard Harper Lee say she never wrote another book because she didn't have anything else to say. Since Go Set A Watchman was written first, I assumed it was about similar issues. So I quite surprised when I read it to discover it was more of a 'coming to age' novel.

Scout is called Jean Louise throughout the story and it seems she had a very idolized view of her father, that the whole family was worried about. She is now in her twenties but acts more like a rebellious teenager when she realizes that her father is going down a path she believes is inconsistent with the man she knew growing up. While Jean Louise doesn't like the path her father has taken, he has sound reasons for doing so which aren't entirely racial driven, but more based on expediency.

It's interesting that people came away from To Kill A Mockingbird with the same idealized view of Atticus that his daughter had. Perhaps that's why Harper Lee chose to publish this book so many years later.

I heard the book had some editing problems, which I often don't notice, but I was surprised by the sudden changes in point of view and wondered if that was what people were referring to, or if it was just a dated way of writing.

Overall I found it an interesting read.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Dream of Knowing God

"The highest dream we could ever dream, the wish that if granted would make us happier than any other blessing, is to know God, to actually experience Him. The problem is that we don’t believe this idea is true. We assent to it in our heads. But we don’t feel it in our hearts." ~ Shattered Dreams by Larry Crabb from the Introduction (WaterBrook Press, 2001).

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Saturday, April 23, 2016

Devotional Thought : Psalm 85:13

Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps. Psalm 85:13

This verse refers to the Lord but it can also apply to us. God wants his people to live justly and prepares for them to walk in his steps.

Daily we are tempted to live like those who don't know God's ways but we don't need to succumb. Paul writes, "When you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it" (1 Corinthians 10:13). While we may be tempted to do something sinful, more often we are tempted to be fearful and anxious. Emotions which reveal our lack of faith in God who promises:

"Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" … "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid." (Hebrews 13:5-6).

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." (Philippians 4:6).

Sometimes we are trick into believing that we have no choice but to go with our emotions. We think our feelings are merely an expression of our circumstances. Yet our feelings are actually based on our beliefs. If we truly believe in God's love and protection then our circumstances, and even our difficulties, take on a different perspective. God is using them to purify, strengthen and create a hope filled future for us.

It's our decision what we focus on. We can remember God's promises and discount our emotions or we can dwell on our difficulties which will only heighten them.

God has prepared a way for us to walk in his steps and live without fear and anxiety—through the promises he makes and the encouragement he provides. He makes a way even when they seems to be no way.

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Book Review : Preaching

Tim Keller covers all aspects of preaching to a local church congregation in his book, Preaching. As someone who preaches a little, I found the information very helpful.

Keller begins by explaining the basics that should be in virtually every sermon. The next few chapters I found particularly useful. There is an inclination to preach what we most need to hear ourselves. So if the preacher is tempted towards legalism they will preach grace but if the preacher is inclined towards permissiveness they will preach morality. Whereas both need to be peached in balance and as Keller points out these temptations spring from the same root cause, that is, a faulty view of God.

I found the chapters on culture and the modern mind a bit laborious. Probably because I didn't find them entirely relevant to my Australian setting. However the concluding chapters were again very informative and helpful. Keller spoke about a preacher's tendency to preach to the needs of those people we most surround ourselves with and therefore it is important to widening our circle of "conversation partners". This is a good point as it is easy to focus on a small range of Biblical principles. Keller likes to quote Jonathan Edwards directly and though Edwards makes some good points, I struggled with the dated terminology.

In the appendix, Keller includes a lengthy explanation of how to prepare an expository message. While this is not the way I prepare sermons, it may be helpful for younger preachers.

Overall a worthwhile book with great insights.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Shared experiences

I have written here about the value of a shared experience. There is value in sharing a book with someone, sharing a church service or other bonding experience. Recently I read Caroline Gladstone article, Hands Across the Water in the Sydney Morning Herald where she writes about the shared experiences that happen when people meet on holidays:
We all know that having a friend on the journey lightens the load and heightens the joy. But why do some endure? Just like in any relationship, you've got to do some heavy lifting to make it work. Just because there are a million ways to say in touch these days doesn't mean you will. Back in my day, to invoke my inner old fogey, you had to put pen to paper if you wanted to stay connected. I think friendships endure because that person and that shared experience touched something deep within us, sparked a feeling that is warm and feels good when we recall it.
Shared experiences do indeed touch something deep with us, and they are worth pursuing because God has made us for community.

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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Devotional Thought : Psalm 84:11

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. Psalm 84:11

Satan's temptation in the Garden of Eden was that God was withholding a good thing – the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It's a temptation he still uses, he hints that God is keeping things from us that would make us happy. Yet this verse and others tell us that God wants to bless us. He has no desire to withhold good things from his people.

We may try to disqualify ourselves by saying our walk isn't blameless. However if we have accepted Christ as our Saviour our walk is blameless because Christ's walk is blameless and we are 'in him' (Ephesians 1:13). No longer do we see ourselves as sinner but as saints that God has made holy (Hebrews 10:10 also 10:14 and 2:11). We are qualified to receive God's good things.

However our definition of a 'good thing' and God's may be vastly different. I see good things as those that add to my comfort and pleasure. Good things that will make my life easier. Eve thought that gaining 'the knowledge of good and evil ' was a good thing but she lost innocence and intimacy. She lost more than she gained.

God's definition of 'good things' are those things which brings us to maturity in Christ; that restore and redeem us to all that God intends. Some of God's good things may be initially painful as he works healing in us.

To be better receivers of all that God has for us, we must know in the core of our being that God is good and no good thing is withheld from us.

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