Saturday, May 27, 2017

Devotional Thought : 2 Chronicles 5:13

The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang: "He is good; his love endures forever." Then the temple of the Lord was filled with the cloud. 2 Chronicles 5:13

I’ve met some Christians who don’t like to sing, which has puzzled me greatly. Some even want to have gatherings where there is no singing.

However, the Bible contains a good deal of singing. The longest book in the Bible, Psalms, is a song book. When it was first put together many would have memorized it, because they sang it. I once thought this was amazing, until I considered that I probably know 150 songs by heart.

There is a major difference between singing songs and singing to the Lord. I hope those who don’t like to sing are those who think they are just singing songs.

In this verse we have an example of singing to the Lord. As their songs of praise rose from the temple, God's presence filled it. We experience God's presence when we lift up his name with praise, music and song. This is not always consciously felt, but we know that God inhabits the praises of his people (Psalm 22:3 KJV).

Singing to the Lord, focuses our attention on God and changes our perspective. When we consider God’s love and his almightiness, our difficulties shrink, our complaints fade and our worries diminish. It is a spiritual discipline to call to mind God’s attributes and to express them to him. It builds up our faith and honours the Lord.

We aren’t going to like every Christian song we sing, nevertheless, let’s use songs as vehicles to focus on the Lord.

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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Book Review : The Elephant Thief

The Elephant Thief begins in the slums of Edinburg with a street urchin, who comes to be known as Danny. He is given the opportunity of a new life when he is drawn into a plan to walk an elephant from Edinburgh to Manchester.

The book is based on a true story which happened in April 1872. In the endnotes the author, Jane Kerr, acknowledges that in reality the walk was fairly uneventful however, in the story she has created, it is very eventful. The author does a good job of combining drama, mystery and suspense as the elephant, his trainer, the owners, a vet and his daughter, plus Danny make the long journey.

There are many problems along the way which hinder their progress. Due to a bet, they only have a week to complete the journey or the owners will, not only lose possession of the elephant, but also their other animals. This adds significant tension to the story.

The relationship between the elephant, Maharajah and Danny develops into an important part of the story as Danny becomes emotionally attached to Maharajah. The relationship becomes pivotal in Danny’s life and is a source of healing and comfort to him. The other members of the travelling party also become valuable to Danny and ultimately change the course of his life.

For young readers, please be aware there is some mild violence, references to past violence and the threat of menace. There is also a significant climatic fight scene, other altercations and an incident of animal cruelty.

Overall, it is a well-told, exciting adventure.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Devotional Thought : 1 Chronicles 29:22

They ate and drank with great joy in the presence of the Lord that day. 1 Chronicles 29:22

Such joy in this chapter and David wanted it to go on forever – he prayed: “Lord, the God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you. And give my son Solomon the wholehearted devotion to keep your commands, statutes and decrees and to do everything to build the palatial structure for which I have provided” (v. 18-19)

David prayed that God would keep the people’s hearts loyal to himself, but it didn’t happen. He prayed that Solomon would have wholehearted devotion to keep God’s commands but that didn’t happen either.

God doesn’t override free will. We choose the desires and thoughts we keep in our hearts, we choose to be loyal or not, and we choose our level of devotion. God doesn’t take our choices from us.

Perhaps Paul’s prayer in Colossians 1:9-11 is a better model. He prays for the Colossians to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in order to live a life pleasing to him, to grow in the knowledge of God and to be strengthened so they may have great endurance and patience. Paul saw the Colossians’ greatest necessity as continually growing in understanding God and his ways, and to have perseverance.

Even then, the Colossians would still have to choose. Christian leaders can provide opportunities for growth and recommend spiritual disciplines to encourage growth, but ultimately it’s our decision if we engage in these practices.

Perseverance is part of the growth process, and seems to be sadly lacking in David’s time. However, the ability to keep going when things get difficult will greatly enhance our spiritual lives.

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Book Review : The Case for Grace

Lee Strobel is better known for writing apologetic books and his other titles, “The Case for …” are based on historical and scientific evidence. The Case for Grace is a series of testimonies, including his own, which show how God has transformed people’s lives. There is also an extensive discussion guide at the back of the book.

It’s natural when putting a book like this together that you would choose people whose lives have been radically impacted by God’s grace: An abandoned child who experienced much abuse becomes a conduit for grace, an addict who becomes a pastor of a large church, an agnostic scientist becomes a professor at an evangelical university, a terrorist and executioner starts a church, a pastor commits adultery but saves his marriage and others, a pastor’s son highly involved in the nightclub culture becomes an evangelist.

These are huge turn arounds and only possible because of God. Through the book Strobel is making the point that God’s grace can reach anyone, no matter what they have done or how far from God they seem to be. Together they provide compelling evidence for the legitimacy of Christian faith.

Lee Strobel is an excellent writer, so this is an easy to read book. It is also a brave book as he shares his own struggles with his father.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Devotional Thought : 1 Chronicles 21:8

Then David said to God, “I have sinned greatly by doing this. Now, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.” 1 Chronicles 21:8

David is the only person described as being a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). What was it about David that was so special? He was hardly sinless, having committed both adultery and murder. In this incident he ordered the counting of the fighting men, which indicates his reliance on his own resources, rather than on God. So I wondering, is it because he was good at repenting?

In the episode with Bathsheba, David simply said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13). There was no rationalization or justification.

In this episode again he fully acknowledges his sin—and his alone. As well as saying, “I have sinned greatly” and “I have done a very foolish thing”. He also says to God, “Was it not I who ordered the fighting men to be counted? I, the shepherd, have sinned and done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? Lord my God, let your hand fall on me and my family, but do not let this plague remain on your people” (1 Chronicles 21:17).

David also had great faith in God’s mercy saying, “Let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is very great” (v. 13). David was right. The Lord called a premature halt to the plague at Araunah’s threshing floor (v. 15).

God’s promise for future restoration is, “I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding” (Jeremiah 3:15).

Let’s be the kind of shepherd who is good at repenting and have great faith in God’s mercy.

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