Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Book Review : Spiritual Rhythm

Mark Buchanan, in his book, Spiritual Rhythm : being with Jesus every season of your soul, encourages his readers to look at their spiritual lives in terms of seasons. His reason is that we often become discouraged if we are not making spiritual progress. However, God may still be working but not in an obvious way. Like many trees and plants that go through seasons of growth, fruit bearing, pruning and being dormant, our lives often go through these stages too. If we can be more aware of what season we are in, we are more able to cooperate with God and learn the lessons from that season.

Mark suggests looking back over our lives and identifying particular seasons. While this didn't really work for me I found his general premise thought provoking and contained a great deal of truth.

Having established the idea of seasons in the first part of the book, Mark in the second part of the book deals with more general aspects of Christian living against this backdrop of seasons. He touches on familiar themes of worship, Bible reading, prayer and community but does so with fresh insights and helpful suggestions.

I have read and benefited from Mark Buchanan's many books. This one is his most personal but also the one with the most humour, which I really enjoyed.

A worthwhile and perceptive book.

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Devotional Thought : 2 Kings 17:6

In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites to Assyria. He settled them in Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River and in the towns of the Medes. 2 Kings 17:6

The first part of the exile finally happens. After many warnings from God's prophets the Israelites are captured by Assyria. Israel lost her land, her identity, everything that was important to her because she forsook God.

Verses 7-18 summaries the reasons for the exile: They worshiped other gods … followed the practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before them … secretly did things against the LORD their God ... built themselves high places … set up sacred stones and Asherah poles …at every high place they burned incense … did wicked things … worshiped idols … did not trust in the LORD their God … forsook all the commands of the LORD their God … made for themselves two idols cast in the shape of calves … bowed down to all the starry hosts … worshiped Baal.

This summary, as well as showing the Israelites abandonment of their faith in God, also shows how patient God has been over many generations. There were many times in the 200 years since Solomon's death that God could have removed his people from the land for their transgressions but God waited, longing for them to repent.

Furthermore Israel's exile should have been an example to Judah but ultimately it wasn't and about 150 years later they too were exiled, this time to Babylon.

God's patience is amazing. He has done everything to call us to himself. He longs for us to repent and be in relationship with him. Yet so often we are not willing and prefer to worship man-made things.

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

God is fascinating

A speaker I once heard made the comment that one of the names of God contains the thought that God is fascinating. We ought to continually want to spend time with him, not out of duty but because we find him fascinating. As the speaker expounded the idea of God being fascinating it struck me I ought to feel drawn towards God the way a child feels drawn to a computer game.

Computer games are fascinating to children. They always want to have just one more turn. Part of the fascination is seeing if you can perform better next time. Even more, the fascination is in discovering more aspects to the game. Computer games are often long and proceed through a series of stages and each stage of a game holds something new. The computer offers the opportunity of making new discoveries every time you play a game and therein lays its potentially addictive power.

God always has new things to teach us about himself, he always has more truth to reveal to us, and he always wants to bless us with more of his love. God never runs out of things he wants to impart to us. Our God is fascinating. He wants us to be "addicted" to him.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Book Review : Nobody hugs Rod Green

Nobody hugs Rod Green is aimed at young adults and tells the story of Clare Bateman's final two years at school. Through the story Jenny Glazebrook weaves in many issues that confront young people today such as peer pressure, bullying, family dynamics, relationships, drugs and the consummation of alcohol. Early in the story Clare commits to Christian faith and this adds another layer of complexity to her latter school years. Jenny handles these issues well and keeps the story moving at a good pace.

Reading this book made me realize how difficult it is being a young person in modern society with so many pressures and so many of them living in dysfunctional family situations, as well as how immature their decision making can be.

This book is thoroughly Christian but Jenny is realistic about Christian faith. Faith doesn't offer simplistic answers or instantly solve problems. Rather it provides courage to persevere while working through difficulties because of the knowledge that something bigger and better is going on.

I wish I had read a book like this at Clare's age because it would have made me feel less alone and given me hope during what is a difficult transitional stage of life.

I should let my readers know that Jenny is a friend of mine, however I have tried to be objective with my review.

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Devotional Thought : 2 Kings 12:2

Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the years Jehoiada the priest instructed him. 2 Kings 12:2

Joash was anointed king by Jehoiada when he was only seven years old. Jehoiada helped preserve Joash's life when he was a baby and he continued to have a godly influence on him. Joash initiated reforms that lead to the temple of the Lord being repaired and restored (12:4-5).

However everything changed when Jehoiada died. Joash now chose to be influenced by ungodly men and when Zechariah, Jehoiada's son, opposed him, he had him stoned. "King Joash did not remember the kindness Zechariah’s father Jehoiada had shown him but killed his son" (2 Chronicles 24:22).

How appalling that Joash not only forgot his guardian and mentor but also had his son killed. What caused such a reversal in Joash's behaviour?

Joash only did what was right while Jehoiada, the priest was alive. He relied on him for everything, even the choice of his wives (24:3). Did Jehoiada manipulate Joash into making right choices or did Joash never take responsibility for his own decisions?

The Biblical account records that Jehoiada "was buried with the kings in the City of David, because of the good he had done in Israel for God and his temple" (24:16). It seems Joash relied too heavily on Jehoiada and never had a faith of his own. He was easily influenced by his evil officials when Jehoiada died, even bribing the king of Aram with the sacred objects from the temple (2 Kings 12:18).

From such a promising beginning, Joash had a poor end. Considering his life may cause us to wonder if we are influenced by godly/ungodly people? Do we rely too heavily on others for spiritual direction? Do we have our own faith?

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

God's Omnipresence

How do I come into the presence of God when he is everywhere at once?

God explains his omnipresence this way, “‘Am I only a God nearby,’ declares the LORD, ‘and not a God far away’” (Jeremiah 23:23). This verse and others contain the idea of coming into God’s Presence and inviting him to be with us. God has the amazing ability to be “far away” and “nearby” at the same time! In doing so, God has created the opportunity for his people to seek to have a more intimate relationship with him, but the choice is ours.

In human friendships we can keep the relationship on a surface level, even with people we see a lot. We do this by restricting the conversation to safe subjects, like how we spend our time or the weather. We do not talk about our feelings or beliefs. It takes time and effort to build the relationship so we can share more intimate things. The same is true in our relationship with God. Even though God knows how we feel it is necessary to spend the time and effort seeking to draw near to him if we desire to have an intimate relationship with him.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Book Review : Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

It took me several chapters to connect with, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, mainly because I was unfamiliar with the setting and context. However once I appreciated this I was hooked.

It is a moving story of 'first love' between a Chinese boy Henry, and a Japanese girl Keiko, living in Seattle during World War II. The book lives up to the expectation of being both bitter and sweet.

The book was well written and I enjoyed the way Jamie Ford weaved his story around historical events, creating believable characters and situations. The story jumps between 1942-1945 and 1986. Sometimes I would have liked it to have jumped more often as it was good to have respite from some of the war events and know that Henry does survive it all despite many challenges.

I do like happy endings and I was completely satisfied with this one, not only for the main characters but also for the other relationships.

I read this book as part of my book club and I'm glad I did.

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