Saturday, October 22, 2016

Devotional Thought : Jeremiah 38:27

All the officials did come to Jeremiah and question him, and he told them everything the king had ordered him to say. So they said no more to him, for no one had heard his conversation with the king. Jeremiah 38:27

The information Jeremiah gave the officials was a lie (v. 26). He kept the king's real conversation a secret. Jeremiah wasn't obliged to answer the officials' questions just because he was asked. Likewise, we shouldn't feel obligated to answer inflammatory questions.

God calls us to be people of integrity and keep our word. He tells us to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Yet there are times when the most loving thing to do is to keep information from people who don't need to know.

My mother has dementia and often asks questions but she doesn't understand the answers or becomes unnecessarily upset. The staff at the nursing home where she lives regularly keep information from her as an alternative to giving her sedatives. I have reluctantly learnt to do the same.

It was also a problem that Rahab had when the Israelites spies came to Jericho (Joshua 2:4-6). Rahab took a huge risk and told the king's messengers that they had left the city at dusk. Guards were sent on a pointless pursuit. However Rahab's decision to conceal their hiding place was richly rewarded by God.

Jesus told mourners that Jairus' daughter was asleep, not dead (8:52). After Jesus healed her, he ordered her parents not to tell anyone what had happened (v. 56). Jesus was effectively asking them to perpetuate the story that she slept.

Confidentiality is important. People need to be able to trust us to keep their legitimate confidences but, of course, not unlawful secrets. Sometimes, we need God's discernment to know the difference.

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

The very cranky bear by Nick Bland

My granddaughter asked me to read, The very cranky bear by Nick Bland on a recent visit. I was surprised that this simple story could be so insightful.

Zebra has a plan to cheer up the Cranky Bear by giving him strips. Moose thought he needed antlers and Lion thought he needed a golden mane. Each of them thought the bear needed what they had. It was the sheep who actually listened and helped him get what he really wanted.

It was a well-written story with minimal words, yet the meaning is clear. The pictures are strong and distinct. They add great visuals to the story.

The story reminds me that it's easy to be like Zebra, Moose and Lion who make assumptions about what others want and the value of listening.

A great lesson in empathy.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

No Plan B

I'm challenged by people like Elisha. When Elijah called him, he killed his oxen and burnt the ploughing equipment (1 Kings 19:21). He literally burnt his bridges. He couldn't go back to farming. He had no Plan B. He wasn't keeping something to go back to if following God became difficult or unpleasant.

Likewise, in Jesus' ministry there came a point when many stopped following him because his teaching was "too hard." "'You do not want to leave too, do you?' Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God'" (John 6:67-68).

Peter recognised God was his only option. Despite knowing all the difficulties of following Jesus, despite all the hard teaching, despite all the uncertainties, Jesus was worth following. He had "the words of eternal life." The long-term reward was worth the short-term difficulties. Peter went on to say, "We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God" (v. 69). It didn't matter that Peter didn't always understand what Jesus was saying or doing, because he understood who Jesus was.

In the same way, I need to hold onto the long-term view. I need to establish in my mind and heart that I will put away my Plan B's, trust God and rely on his grace, no matter what.

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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Devotional Thought : Jeremiah 32:8

Then, just as the Lord had said, my cousin Hanamel came to me in the courtyard of the guard and said, 'Buy my field at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. Since it is your right to redeem it and possess it, buy it for yourself.' I knew that this was the word of the Lord. Jeremiah 32:8

Jeremiah was imprisoned when Hanamel offers him this land. It was a completely selfish and deceitful act on Hanamel's part. The town of Anathoth was already in Babylonians hands and Jeremiah would not be able to possess it. The land was completely worthless. Perhaps Hanamel thought Jeremiah wouldn't know.

As an act of obedience Jeremiah buys it but he prays to God with an implied question: "And though the city will be given into the hands of the Babylonians, you, Sovereign Lord, say to me, 'Buy the field with silver and have the transaction witnessed.'" (v. 25).

God's replies (v. 36-45) with a declaration of his Sovereignty and amazing promises of restoration. "Once more fields will be bought in this land of which you say, 'It is a desolate waste, without people or animals, for it has been given into the hands of the Babylonians.' Fields will be bought for silver, and deeds will be signed, sealed and witnessed in the territory of Benjamin … because I will restore their fortunes, declares the LORD." (v. 43-45).

Like Jeremiah God calls us to live by faith which often requires us to act as if the future is already here. We are to pray, "Your kingdom come" (Luke 11:2) and look for signs of his kingdom as it works like yeast silently but progressively making a difference (Luke 13:20). Whilst remembering his promise that he will never stop doing good to us (v. 45).

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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Book Review : The Grass Castle

The Grass Castle by Karen Viggers is an enjoyable story set in an Australian context that I'm very familiar with. I liked reading about places that I know well. The book is quite descriptive in places which did slow the pace of the story and I did wonder whether this could have been handled better. However I found the story engaging so persisted through these passages.

Abby is a university student who meets Cameron, an ambitious journalist, through her research work on kangaroos. Daphne is an elderly widow trying not to be a drain on her family. I liked the unlikely romance between Abby and Cameron and the friendship between Abby and Daphne. These characters and their relationships were relatable and insightful. Both Abby and Daphne were burdened by issues from their past which they are able to come to a better place of understanding and acceptance through the book.

A kangaroo cull is a dramatic part of the story. This was a difficult but well-handled part of the story. Both sides of the controversy were shown and explored. Aboriginal land issues were also touched upon but not investigated to any large extent. It added to the backdrop without being a distraction.

Overall a thoughtful and interesting story.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Waiting on God

Generally speaking we are not good at waiting. Waiting tells us that we're not independent, we cannot control everything or everybody, and we are not self-reliance. It is a blow to our pride to have to wait and be dependent on something or someone else.

Perhaps this is why God often keeps us waiting, to teach us our limitations and our need of him. We think nothing is happening or that we could be doing something more productive instead of waiting. God sees it quite differently. He sees that we are strengthened. "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint" (Isaiah 40:31 KJV). If we are waiting on the Lord, our waiting isn't wasted because we are growing stronger. The Hebrew word for "wait" in this passage can also refer to the process of making rope. Making rope is a process of adding strands and twisting them together—the more strands the stronger the rope. The more we learn the 'process' of waiting on God by binding ourselves to his purposes and his timetable the stronger our faith.

Our perspective here on earth is limited, so we must trust our heavenly Father for those things for which we have no answers. He knows what he is doing, and sometimes we just have to wait. Wait to see what God will do in our circumstances. Wait to hear what God will say to us. Wait to understand the meaning behind it all, and sometimes we may still be waiting when we depart this life.

If I wait for a bus, I wait expectantly, looking for the bus to come, believing it will come, even though it may not come when I think it ought to. I will wait as long as I believe the bus is coming. Likewise as I wait upon the Lord, I wait expectantly, eagerly looking for God. His intervention may not happen when or how I'd like, but I know that God will indeed come and make a difference in my situation.

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Saturday, October 08, 2016

Devotional Thought : Jeremiah 29:5

Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Jeremiah 29:5

God told the exiles to makes themselves 'at home' in Babylon. This is the norm for God's people – build houses, plant gardens. It's a picture of domesticity. It's also a long term picture, eating what our gardens produce takes time. God's people would be in Babylon for some time learning the lessons of living in a land not their own. In the meantime they are to find contentment in the daily routines of life.

Sometimes we crave activity, action and adventure. While there are times for this, for the most part life is made up of the little pleasures that family and friends bring. We can focus too much on the exciting events in our lives and forget the regular small occurrences – a sunny day, a home cooked meal, a phone call from a friend.

Paul told the Thessalonians, "to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).

By committing to being attentive to the little pleasures in life we can a lead a quiet, contented life which with impact others. When others are rushing around creating a life of excitement, wealth or prominence, our peaceful lifestyle will be a challenging contrast. People will see that we aren't dependent on their good will or on advantageous circumstances to have a happy life.

Today as we live in 'our Babylons', we know this world isn't our real home. However we can enjoy a life of domesticity, while living with the hope of our future heavenly home.

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