Thursday, December 29, 2005


Like a lot of other bloggers I have been to see The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. It was great. It has been a few years since I read the book but I was surprised how closely the film followed the book. The kids were great actors especially Lucy. I also really like the professor and I had been worried the producers might leave him out.

Of course if you want to know why there is a lamp post in Narnia you need to read the first in the series Magician's Nephew though interestingly enough C.S. Lewis didn't write this first.(But surely he must have known he was going to? The writer in me wants to know, how did Lewis do that-write a series of books out of order?)Anyway the Magician's Nephew also explains why the wardrobe leads to Narnia. So I hope I have excited your curiosity if you haven't already read the whole series.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The reward of not griping

"Do everything without complaining or arguing … in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe" Philippians 2:14-15.

God really hates it when we gripe. There are several incidents in Numbers where the Israelites griped and the outcomes were not good (Numbers 16:41; 21:5-6). When we complain we are really saying, God is not looking after me the way He should, that He is keeping good things from me or He does not know what is best for me. When we complain we are saying that God is not good.

The truth is that God has given us so much. He has given us love, peace, joy, eternal life, hope, grace, mercy even His own Son. But when we complain we are saying this is not enough, we want more.

It seems so natural to complain. Rich people complain, poor people complain and so does everyone in between. Complaining is not related to how much money we have or how much power we have or how intelligent we are. It is related to the attitude we have towards our circumstances. As Christians our attitude should be one of trust. Knowing whatever our circumstances God is in control and we accept whatever happens as coming from His hand.

This verse also gives us another very compelling reason not to complain. It tells us if we do not complain or argue it will be obvious to those around us that we are Christians. We will stand out like stars against a black background. Isn't it remarkable to think that we can have such a big impact by simply not complaining.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Beyond the veil

Beyond the veil by Alice Smith (Regal Books, 1998), deals with intercessory prayer and explains why not all prayer for needs is actually intercession. Intercession is a powerful weapon to use against the enemy. Alice Smith clarifies the gift, the role and the office of intercession. She uses the Old Testament priesthood and the model of the tabernacle to explain the ministry of the intercessor. Smith also describes the different kind of intercessors in the body of Christ and the different prayer needs they fulfill. She teaches the different "triggers" that God uses to prompt intercessors to pray. Smith speaks about the necessity of living a godly life and the need to grow more intimate with God in this ministry.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Golf and spiritual warfare

"… without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved – and that by God" Philippians 1:28

I often find parallels between sport and life. Just recently I was watching the play off hole between Allenby and Watson for the Masters Golf Championship. Both were on the green for two but Allenby was slightly further away and had the first attempt at a birdie putt. He missed but only by inches and tapped in for an easy par. Watson knew if he made his putt the championship was his. He also missed but by feet rather than inches. Consequently he also missed his next putt and handed the championship to Allenby.

Later Allenby said that he went for the birdie putt but also played safe because he thought Watson might three putt. What an amazing statement! Here are professional golfers who practice putting for hours a day and Allenby thought Watson might three putt, which he did. Really Allenby was saying I thought he might crack under the pressure. Watson could have played it safe, gone for par and waited for a better opportunity. He would have survived to play another play off hole, but too soon he went for the winning shot and missed.

Often when we find ourselves in spiritual warfare all we need to do is stand firm (v.27 & Ephesians 6:11)). We don't need to worry about hitting winning shots or trying to look good in the eyes of the world. If we stand firm in the belief that God is in control, without being frightened in any way by those who oppose us, then our enemy, the devil, will have to flee with his plans in tatters (James 4:7).

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Monday, December 12, 2005

On writing a book

A while ago I wrote a post about the challenge of having enough time. I have since been reflecting on that time. I did have a strong sense God wanted me to write but I couldn't figure out what I was suppose to write and writing a book seemed totally impossible.

Looking back on that time three significant things happened. Because I had time on my hands I read two non-Christian books, something I previously would have felt I did not have time to do. One was "The Artist's Way" which made me realize that I needed to write because I am a writer - getting published is just a bonus. (In the movie, Sister Act II, she tells a student you sing because God made you a singer). Secondly I read Stephen King's book where he made the blatantly obvious comment that if you write 2,000 words a day for 100 days (about three months) you end up with a book of 200,000 words. I worked out that I wanted to write 50,000 words so only needed to write 500 words a day for a bit long than three months since I couldn't write everyday. Suddenly writing a book was manageable. Thirdly, I was encouraged to get a blog. Blogging made me realize that I had a lot more to say than I thought!

The result of all this is that in the last few months I have actually written a book! Well, I have finished a first draft which is slightly under 50,000 words. Stephen King recommends you wait six weeks after you finish your first draft before starting on your second draft which seems like a really good idea because at the moment I'm really tired of working on my book.

It is amazing to me that for such a long time I said I could never write a book but because of God's working in my life, I have managed to do it in just three months.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Psalm 119:137-176 - part 5

Well, I finally finished Psalm 119. I find it quite remarkable that this psalmist could write 176 verses and in nearly every one of them mentions God's word, His commands, His precepts, or His law. In v.139 he talks about "my zeal wears me out"; in v. 145 he says "I call with all my heart" and in v.161 he talks about "my heart trembles at your word". He was one passionate guy. An inspiration for us to passionate not only about God's written Word but also the Incarnate Word (John 1:14).

Since lots of things are winding up for Christmas I think I'll finish blogging about Psalms. Next year my Bible study group is going to be looking at Phillipians so I might look at that over the Christmas break. Don't know if I'll blog about it or not.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Monday, December 05, 2005

A Christmas thought

I wrote this recently:

"And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel". Genesis 3:15

This is an interesting verse to consider as Christmas approaches because it is the first reference in the Bible indicating that God will send a Saviour. "He will crush your head" finds its fulfilment in 1 John 3:8 "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work". In other words the woman's offspring would eventually bring a Saviour into the world.

After this initial prophecy, we find many more prophecies throughout the Old Testament that become clearer and more specific. We are told which race, which family, and which tribe He would be born into. We are told place of birth, type of ministry, type of death and about His resurrection. Yet when Jesus came many people missed Him. The Pharisees who knew their Scriptures so well did not even recognise Him.

The Pharisees were so locked into their preconceived ideas of the Messiah that they wouldn't even consider it could be Jesus. It raises the question are we so locked into our own ideas about Jesus that if He did something unexpected we wouldn't recognise Him either?

God will not be stopped by our finite minds, lack of understanding or preconceived ideas. If we miss what God is doing it will be our loss. This Christmas as we consider Jesus' coming into the world, let us be open to Him who comes to us in unexpected ways.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Psalm 119:97-136 - part 4

I've been wondering why this guy is so passionate about God's law. I think maybe because he appreciates God's holiness. I think sometimes we get blaise about God's holiness. We are so use to receiving mercy and grace we take it for granted. But in the Old Testament it seems they weren't as aware of God's mercy and grace as we are. In v.120 he is trembling in God's Presence and in v.136 he is distressed because God's laws are not kept. Makes me wonder if we are passionate enough about God and His Holiness.

I found v.98-100 quite curious, he says God's commands make him wiser than his enemies (this I understand), gives him more insight than his teachers and more understanding than his elders (does this mean his teachers and elders don't meditate and/or apply God's laws?).

Next week I'll be looking at the remainer of Psalm 119 and post about it next Thursday.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Inside Out

Inside Out by Larry Crabb (Alpha, 1998) is available as a book or cassette. The book has four parts which correspond to the four abbreviated points on the tape.

The four points are:
1. We need to take an honest look at our lives. The gospel needs to penetrate not just our outward behaviour but our inner motives.

2. We need to be honest about our disappointments and our hurts. We need to recognize that because we live in a fallen world with imperfect people, that we have been hurt in the past and will be hurt in the future.

3. We need to recognize that we have all sinned, not only in thought and deed but also by self-protective behaviour. We have not been the channels of love God meant us to be because we have been too busy protecting ourselves from being hurt.

4. We need to trust the Lord with our hurts and repent of our self-protective behaviour.

On the tape Larry says a great deal in a short space of time. I felt the need to listen to the tape several times to catch the full impact of what he was saying. The book goes into a lot more detail. I think both are good value as he raises some valuable issues that need to be thought through.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Psalm 119:65-96 - part 3

V.68 tells me that God is good. It reminds me of that song, God is all the time. It is an important truth we need to have well established in our minds because it is an area that Satan loves to attack when we are feeling down.

V.73 tells me that God made me and formed me, nothing was left to chance or accident. I am God's unique creation and v.94 tells me I belong to God. I have worth and value because I am His.

V.82 "When will you comfort me?" Sometimes I have to wait to see what God will do, but I can be enlarged spiritually in the waiting.

During this next week I'll be looking at Psalm 119 v.97-136. I'll post about it next Thursday.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A funny thing happened in the shoe store

I've been reading John Marsden's book, "Everything I know about writing" and he tells this very funny story. He was in a shoe shop trying on shoes:

"I was going through the usual routines when one tries on new shoes. You know how it is: you put on one, or both, then go for a test drive a lap or two of the store. I was doing that, and glancing down at the shoes to admire them, when suddenly I noticed a big swelling in the leg of my jeans, below the left knee. What could it be? Allergy to shoes? Cancer? I balanced on one foot and tried to look up my own leg, not easy when you're wearing jeans. And finally I realized. The night before, I'd taken off my jeans and jocks in one movement, the way you do. This morning I'd put on clean jocks, then yesterday's jeans. But yesterday's jocks were still in the leg of the jeans! And what was worse, they were slipping down a few centimetres with every step I took. In another half dozen steps my underwear would be sitting on the carpet of the shop. What could I do? Only the obvious thing: I ducked behind a rack of shoes and started groping up my own leg; again not easy when you're wearing jeans. Finally I made contact and pulled them out, and stuffed them quickly into my pocket. But as I did, I looked up. The women selling me the shoes was craning her neck from behind the counter, trying to make out what I was doing. I don't know whether she thought I was a shoplifter, or some kind of pervert who liked to wave his underwear around in shoe shops."

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Kingdom of God is a Party

The Kingdom of God is a Party by Tony Campolo (Word, 1990) is actually the first and only book I've read by Campolo. I think I have been a little put off his writing because I've seen him on video. I personally don't like preachers who shout, but that's ok because he doesn't shout when I'm reading his book!

We have many pictures or symbols for the Kingdom of God and Campolo adds another one "a party". He makes the comment that the New Testament begins with a birthday party, where angels sing and wise men bring gifts, and it ends in a wedding feast. In between times there is still much to celebrate despite the dreadful things that are happening in the world. Several of Jesus' parables regarding the Kingdom of God use the picture of a wedding feast, Jewish weddings are large celebrations lasting a week. It is this idea of celebration or "party" that Campolo uses. I wonder how that fits in with the image of God that we hold. A God who tells his people to stop work and have a party.

Tony Campolo certainly has some radical ideas on the funding of celebrations and the book challenged by thinking. Some of his ideas were new to me and I therefore found it very thought provoking – causing me to go searching through my Bible (not a bad recommendation for any book!). Yet I also found it encouraging to think that God wants us to take some time and money and celebrate His goodness.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Psalm 119:33-64 - God's laws part 2

V.36 Talks about choosing God's ways or selfish gain. Selfish gain creates self-centre people who are unhappy and difficult to get along with.

V.45 (see also v.32) "I will walk about in freedom". Imagine playing basketball or football without lines or without rules, it would be a nightmare. The boundaries actually help us to enjoy the game. Likewise God's laws are designed to help us enjoy life and within His boundaries we have heaps of freedom.

V.50 "Your promise preserves my life" reminds me of a song we use to sing: "For all that You've promised and all that You are, is all that has carried me through". God's promises strengthen us and keep us going in the tough times

During this next week I'll be looking at Psalm 119 v.65-96. I'll post about it next Thursday.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Thriving as an artist - part 3

Finished reading Thriving as an artist in the church and it was an interesting read. Though not quite what I was expecting. It is, of course, American and so Rory Noland writes from the perspective of big churches with a large staff. Nevertheless much of what he said was to do with an artist's attitude and would apply wherever you live.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Psalm 119:1-32 - God's laws

Interesting that I began reading this psalm after having read Tab's essay where she talks about the law. This psalm mentions the law a lot or alternatively statutes, precepts, decrees, commands as I was thinking about this it occurred to me that these things help us to know the character of God. Also I think it helps us with discernment if we know God's law, that is, God would not lead us to do something against His character. This seems to come out in vs. 2 & 10 connect knowing God's law/commands with seeking Him.

I was thinking recently about the fact that we are strangers on earth ("And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth" Hebrews 11:13) and this is also mentioned in v. 19. where perhaps the thought is because I am a stranger, I am in need of God's direction.

During this next week I'll be looking at Psalm 119 v.33-64. I'll post about it next Thursday.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Monday, November 07, 2005

Thriving as an artist - part 2

Finished reading chapter 3 - coping with rejection and failure where Rory Noland discusses amongst other things the statement: "Always do what God wants you to do and let someone else do what you want to do" and quotes this interesting testimony from Henri Nouwen which is in Nouwen's book, The Road to Daybreak.

"My trips to Latin America had set in motion the thought that I might be called to spend the rest of my life among the poor of Bolivia or Peru. So I resigned from my teaching position at Yale and went to Bolivia to learn Spanish and to Peru to experience the life of a priest among the poor. I sincerely tried to discern whether living among the poor in Latin America was the direction to go. Slowly and painfully,I discovered that my spiritual ambitions were different from God's will for me. I had to face the fact that I wasn't capable of doing the work of a missioner in a Spanish-
speaking country, that I needed more emotional support than my fellow missioners could offer, that the hard struggle for justice often left me discouraged and dispirited,and that the great variety of tasks and obligations took away my inner composure. It was hard to hear my friends say that I could do more for the South in the North than in the South and that my ability to speak and write was more useful among university students than among the poor. It became quite clear to me that idealism, good intentions, and a desire to serve the poor do not make up a vocation."

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Thriving as an artist

Just started reading, Thriving as an artist in the church : hope and help for you and your ministry team by Rory Noland. I hadn't heard of him before this book but apparently he has written a previous book called, The heart of the artist. So far I've read the introduction - it's not easy being an artist in the church; chapter 1 - how to keep your passion alive ; and chapter 2 - five relational skills every artist needs. I think it is going to be a good read.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Psalm 109 - Being honest

David is a most striking example of someone without pretence. He was never afraid to tell God exactly what he was thinking and feeling. Here we find David telling God exactly what he thinks should be done with a "wicked and deceitful" person and it is not pleasant. "May his days be few … may his children be fatherless … may his children be wandering beggars … may a creditor seize all he has … may no one extend kindness to him … may his descendants be cut off … may the iniquity of his fathers be remembered … may their sins always remain before the Lord …" (Psalm 109:6-20). Yet God describes David with these words: "I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart, he will do everything I want him to do." God can handle our temper tantrums, our overwhelming depressions and any other of our emotional states, freely giving us His grace to meet all the circumstances of our lives.

Over the next few weeks I plan to look at Psalm 119. In the past I have found myself rushing through this psalm because it is so long. I thought it would be good for me to take some time over it, so this week I'm going to look at v.1-32

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Moving in the direction of our passion

Something else I wrote for my church newsletter:

"Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, '… Perhaps the Lord will act on our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.' 'Do all that you have in mind' his armor-bearer said. 'Go ahead; I am with heart and soul'" 1 Samuel 14:6-7.

The other Friday night I went to the end of the year presentation at Year In The Son at Tabor College. A group of students were asked what they would do differently as a result of the course in terms of priorities and future direction. One student said prior to doing the course she would have studied and worked in an area that she was good at, now but she is going to work in the area of her God given passion.

Jonathan's young armor-bearer encouraged Jonathan to do what God had put in his mind and what a great victory it was v. 23 tells, "So the Lord rescued Israel that day". How valuable it is to have those around us encouraging us to do those things that God has put in our hearts and minds.

Jesus gave opportunities to uneducated fishermen, quick tempered brothers and a dodgy tax collector. Jesus also appointed Judas as treasurer even though it turned out that he was a thief. Perhaps Jesus was less worried about failure than we are. At Jesus' arrest when Peter cut off the ear of the high priest's servant, Jesus touched him and healed him (Luke 22:51). Jesus still has the power to fix and heal the mistakes we make.

This should give us great encouragement to take a risk and move in the direction of our passion, following Jonathan's example, and encouraging others to do the same.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Psalm 90 - Life is brief

v.2. "From everlasting to everlasting you are God". I heard a speaker give a demonstration of this verse. We were in a large hall at the time and she said, "Imagine this entire room represents everlasting time, that is, time from God's point of view". She took an A4 folder and dropped in the middle of the room and said, "Then this folder would represent time from the start of Genesis until now." Makes one feel quite small.

Therefore, because life is brief, we need to number our days aright (v.12). That is, to spend our time wisely. Interestingly this doesn't mean we need to be constantly doing stuff as God is apparently very keen on celebration. Many times in the Old Testament God told his people to do no regular work but to celebrate certain feasts and special days. Apart from the weekly Sabbath, there are six of these occasions in the Israelites year and two of these, the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Tabernacles lasted for seven days (Leviticus 23).

v.14 "Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love". If we could grasp God's amazing love for us we would be satisfied, singing for joy and glad all of our days.

During this next week I plan to look at Psalm 109 but as I am minding my niece and nephews this week it may be tricky. Hopefully I'll post about it next Thursday.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Tearing heaven in two

Something I wrote for my church newsletter:

"Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down" Isaiah 64:1

The cry of Isaiah's heart was that God would come down to earth and be with him. Isaiah had been given a daunting task, to preach God's word to His unresponsive people "until the cities lie ruined" (6:11). It is no wonder Isaiah wanted God to show up. Of course, in Jesus, God did come down here and not only did He come down here but He stayed. He stayed by the presence of His Holy Spirit in His people.

In Mark 15:38 we read, "The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom". This one brief sentence describes what must have been an amazing event. The curtain in the temple was made of heavy material and thought to be 30 feet high. No human hand could have torn it from the top to the bottom. The curtain separated the Holy of Holies from men, even the priests, since only one could enter and then only once a year.

The curtain being torn opened the way into the Holy of Holies and this signifies that the way is open for us to come into the very presence of God. "Since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus... let us draw near to God" Hebrews 10:19-22. The tearing of the curtain is symbolic of God rending the heavens and coming down to us. What an extraordinary act showing God's overwhelming desire to be with His people. God wants to deal with anything that stands between me and Him, my sin, my shortcomings, my apathy and He will tear heaven in two to do it.

What an awesome thought that the God who made the universe would desire my fellowship that much.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Esther - part 3

I finished reading Finding Favour with the King by Tommy Tenney and it was a worthwhile read, despite my previous moanings about it.

Two quotes which I particularly liked were, "Once again, as I've said in many churches and meetings around the world, God has this incredible idea that church is about Him. Our view tends to be terribly different. We often fashion and orchestrate everything in our meetings to please ourselves, so by our actions we show that we believe church is really about us." (pg. 94).

And again, "How long has it been since God left a worship encounter with you exclaiming, 'I'm full'? We are the ones who often want to leave 'blessed'! Interestingly, God thinks church is to bless Him!" (pg. 164).

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Psalm 84 – Yearning for connection

V.2 seems set the tone of this psalm, where the Psalmist is yearning, even fainting for the courts of the Lord. As I was thinking about this it occurred to me that he was actually yearning to connect with God which comes out in the second half of the verse, "my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God". I suspect his preferred spiritual pathway (see post about Psalm 57) is public worship (through singing, music etc.). This is easy for me to identify with because I too like to connect with God this way. But it got me wondering how those who prefer other ways of connecting with God experience this yearning? Actually I thought it may be easier for someone who prefers to connect with God through study or nature or solitude, since these pathways don't need other people quite as much.

v.10 I remember reading this verse when I was quite a young Christian and thinking, yes I don't mind how humble a place I have as long as it is in God's kingdom.

V.11 Sometime I think we disqualify ourselves for the blessing of this verse by saying but my walk isn't blameless. But Christians are in Christ and Christ is blameless. God wants to give us good things, let's be open to His blessings.

During this next week I'll be looking at Psalm 90. I'll post about it next Thursday

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Esther - part 2

I am still reading, Tommy Tenney's "Finding favour with the king". Tenney may have answered one of my questions about Esther. I could never really figure out why Esther was picked (I always felt there had to be something else apart from the God factor). She was just one of maybe 400 other (some commentators feel the number could have been as higher as 1400) beautiful girls. We are told that she alone (?) took the advice of Hegai, who was in charge of the king's harem (2:15). But what was the advice?

In Esther 2:13-14 we are told that the girls could take whatever they wanted with them and that they were returned to a different part of the harem the next morning. Apparently the girls were allowed to keep whatever they took with them. Archaeologically digs of the area have found large amounts of jewellery so it seems they went to see the king dripping in jewellery. In this culture it may not have been that unusual anyway. And why not? If your chances of being queen were 1 in 400 at best, why not get what you can for yourself out of the whole abusive exercise. It may not have all been selfish either. Esther continued to have contact with her cousin from the king's palace and perhaps the other girls also continued to have contact with their family members. Another thing is why would you want to be queen anyway? To me, it was a hazardous business. I mean, there is no word of what happen to Vashti, some feel she was executed. It would have been safer in the harem, kings generally don't kill their concubines.

Anyway maybe Hegai advice was don't go dripping in jewellery it makes you look like a gold digger. Which was a big risk for Esther to take, she could end up with very little, but it helps me to understand why Esther could have looked different to all the others. I find someone dripping in jewellery quite unattractive and it would have been obvious they were only there for what they could get for themselves.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Esther – the unromanticized version

Lately I have been reading, Tommy Tenney's "Finding favour with the king". It is similar to other books about Esther in that he makes great use of the story in an analogical way. Yet I find this approach tends to romanticized the story and leaves out some rather harsh and unpleasant realities. The romanticized version of Esther is that an ordinary orphan girl becomes queen and saves her people from annihilation. This version overlooks the fact that she was most likely forced against her will into King Xerxes beauty contest which included a night with the King. The text is very brief at this point and we are only told that Esther "was taken to the king's palace" (Esther 2:8). Yet it is hard to imagine that a young Jewish girl would want to end up as part of the king's harem. In our culture being forced to have sex is called rape. In this Persian culture it reads like standard practice. One can only imagine that Esther was a normal young girl with dreams of being a wife and mother to a nice Jewish boy, instead she finds herself in a palace which is more like a prison since she has no way of escape. Next she finds herself in the intimate company of a ruthless, pagan king. For me this reads like a nightmare, not a dream come true "rags to riches" story. I feel that God was gracious in taking Esther's parents early in her life so they wouldn't know her future fate.

Some time later Esther does indeed save the Jewish people living in Persia from annihilation and a national day is proclaimed so future generations will remember the significance of the events that took place in Esther times. Yet on a historical note these were not the only Jews alive at the time. It had been about 60 years since the first exiles, a group of about 50,000 (Ezra 2:64-65), had returned to the land of Judah. Therefore if Esther had not have become queen it would have meant the deaths of a large number of Jews but not the end of the Jewish race.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Psalm 72 – Godly justice

V.20 tells us that this prayer concludes the prayers of David but under the title it says "of Solomon". V. 1 contains a prayer for the "royal son". So I'm assuming David wrote this prayer about his son Solomon who was to be the future king.

The first thing David prays for Solomon is that God would bestow on him godly justice. Justice and righteousness rate highly in the first few verses and prosperity seems to flow from righteousness. Then in verses 12-14 David particularly prays for the needy, the afflicted, the weak to be rescued from oppression and violence. After these verses David prays for blessings and abundance.

It got me wondering if David had been concerned for the needy when he was king. I found this verse, "David reigned over all Israel, doing what was just and right for all his people" 2 Samuel 8:15. I guess it is no surprise that David would rule justly, since he was a man after God's own heart. Doing what is just and right is not always easy as we can find ourselves in ethical dilemmas but God will give us His wisdom if we ask.

(I also think it is interesting that Nathan's story of the rich man mistreating the poor man (2 Samuel 12:1-4), while fictional, caused David to burn with anger). Solomon seems to have begun well but unfortunately towards the end of his reign became more interested in taxing people then showing concern for their welfare.

During this next week I'll be looking at Psalm 84. I'll post about it next Thursday.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Sunday, October 09, 2005

5 times 7

I was tagged by Kitty to complete the 5 times 7 questions.

5 things I plan to do before I die
(Being the age I am, I've done all the physical things I want to do, so now I'm onto the more philosophical things, I don't think this means I'm more "deep" probably just means I am old!)

1. Know Christ (Phil 3:10)
2. Fulfill His purpose for me (Psalm 57:2)
3. Lead a quiet life (1 Thes 4:11-12)
4. Enjoy life (1 Timothy 6:17)
5. Press on (Phil 3:12)

5 things I can do
1. Make a unique contribution to life
2. Be a mum to my kids
3. Be a wife to my husband
4. Write devotionally
5. Catalogue books

5 things I cannot do
1. Blow up balloons
2. Light a fire with less than 3 fire lighters
3. Watch medical procedures on TV (or the net!)
4. Own a pet (it would die)
5. Go on amusement park rides without throwing up

5 things that attract me to other people
1. Genuinely interested in me
2. Friendly
3. Kind
4. Positive outlook
5. Similar interests

5 things I say most often (I consulted my husband on this one, that may not have been a good idea!)
1. Will you be long?
2. Can you move your stuff?
3. I don't know.
4. What are you doing today?
5. What do you think?

5 celebrity crushes
1. Richard Gere
2. Hugh Grant
3. Colin Firth
4. Tom Hanks
5. Roger Federer

5 people I want to do this
Ok I'm looking for volunteers, any takers?

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Friday, October 07, 2005

God is closer than you think

This book, "God is closer than you think" by John Ortberg (Zondervan, 2005), like his others, uses illustrations and anecdotes to convey spiritual truths. My favourite illustration is from the "Where's Wally" books. In this series of children's books the idea is to find Wally, who is on every page. Early in the book he is fairly easy to find but as you progress through the book it becomes more difficult. He may be in a crowd of people or behind a tree or under a bush. God is like Wally in that He is on every page of our lives and closer than we think, but He is not always easy to see.

In another chapter, Ortberg speaks about spiritual pathways which are the different ways we connect to God. Some prefer the intellectual pathway and draw close to God as they learn more about Him. Others connect with God through worship or through serving. Some feel connected to God in nature or in solitude. Still others prefer the relational pathway and connect to God through relationships often in small groups. While others are activists with high energy levels and need to be doing to feel connected. While we should continue to connect with God through our preferred pathway there are times when it is good to experiment with other pathways.

Finally one of the things he said that I found particularly encouraging was, "every aspect of my life – work, relationships, hobbies, errands – is of immense and genuine interest to God." Well worth a read.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Psalm 57 - Be exalted, O God

V.5 is a surprising verse. Stuck in the middle of David crying out to God in the midst of his difficulties, he stops to praise and exalt God and then again in vs. 7-11. V.2 is also interesting in that despite his difficulties he knows God will fulfil his purposes for him. V.7-8 remind me of something I read in John Ortberg's book, "God is closer than you think". Ortberg uses David as an example of someone who connects to God through worship (as in singing, music etc.). Ortberg speaks about different spiritual pathways that people use to connect to God. Some prefer the intellectual pathway and draw close to God as they learn more about Him. Others connect with God through worship (like David) or through serving. Some feel connected to God in nature or in solitude. Still others prefer the relational pathway and connect to God through relationships often in small groups. While others are activists with high energy levels and need to be doing stuff to feel connected to God. Ortberg feels that while we should continue to connect with God through our preferred pathway there are times when it is good to experiment with other pathways.

During this next week I'll be looking at Psalm 72. I'll post about it next Thursday.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Behaviors of the blogosphere

I was reading my library magazine and it reported that comScore have conducted a study titled, "Behaviors of the blogosphere". There is a press release which has a link to the actual report.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Monday, October 03, 2005

The filename is too long

Today at church the worship leader shared this story. He was preparing a power point presentation which he has done many times before when he found the music clip wouldn't work. He particularly wanted to use this piece of music because it fitted in so well with the theme of the presentation. He spent several lunchtimes plus some hours at home trying to get it to work without success. At now he was feeling rather tense and frustrated, his wife suggested they pray. She was only three or four words into the prayer when he felt God say to him, "The filename is too long". Sure enough he shorten the filename and the music clip worked. How amazing that God cares about such things.

I've just finished reading John Ortberg's book, "God is closer than you think" and one of the things he says is, "every aspect of my life – work, relationships, hobbies, errands – is of immense and genuine interest to God."

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Saturday, October 01, 2005

What we win them with, is what we win them too ...

Lately Trav has been sharing his thoughts on evangelism so I thought I would share a few of mine. How we become Christians ourselves seems to have a big bearing of how we view evangelism. People who become Christians at a camp are often keen to run camps and sometimes even want to run church services in a 'camp style'. Others who become Christians at large youth gatherings, like Youth Alive, are keen to attend these events and again have a preference for running church services in a similar format to these meetings. As I've noticed this phoneme, I wondered is it because when we become Christians, at whatever kind of function it was, it was such an impacting time that we continually try to recapture it?

My experience of becoming a Christian is perhaps a little different. I grew up in a family that didn't attend church, though I was sent to Sunday school rather irregularly as a child. Rather unexpectedly and without warning, when I was thirteen I decided to start attending church. In retrospect this was amazing! Why would a thirteen year old make such an unusual decision? I remember reading a job description about an air hostess and amongst a lot of other things it was commenting that a church minister was a good person for a referee! Possibly that one thought started a chain reaction in my thinking. I had very few friends and had little to do on the weekend, why not go to church for something to do? Nevertheless it was rather odd and I can only think that God was stirring in my heart.

So one Sunday morning I just turned up at church! I was invited to morning tea after church where I met the youth group leader and was invited to youth group. About 9 months later I went to a camp and became a Christian the night after camp.

I have heard many testimonies of how people become Christians. Yet when I thought about my own experience I was somewhat perplexed. I didn't have praying relatives and hardly knew any Christians prior to becoming one myself. It seemed that God had called me to Himself without much help from other Christians. I began to think why doesn't God work this way with everyone? Why doesn't God plant the idea of just turning up at some Christian function in every unbeliever's heart? Why only mine? I came to understand that in actual fact God does. But not everyone hears or responds to God calling them. In fact most people need a physical person showing and telling them what it means to be a Christian. Though as Christians it helps us to know that God is already working in the heart of the person before we even show up.

It is an interesting thing though that what we win people with (camps, meetings etc.), becomes what we win them too (that is what they want to repeat doing, especially in terms of evangelism).

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Psalm 25 - hang in there

David talks about the man that fears the Lord in v.12, where it says that the Lord will instruct him who fears the Lord, He will prosper him, He will confide in him and make His covenant known to him and David wants to be that man!

Throughout the psalm David has a strong desire to be led by God. He asks God: to show me your ways, teach me your paths, guide me in your truth and teach me. David affirms that God does instruct sinners in his ways, guides the humble and teaches them his way. David also seems to be very conscious of his sins, yet also of God's great mercy and love v.6. While David believes God will prosper him, it seems that he is not experiencing this at the time of his writing. Yet his hope is in God and he has a strong belief that God will come through for him. The psalm is a great encouragement to keep pressing on in the Christian life. We have the benefit of knowing from reading elsewhere in the Bible that God does indeed rescue David from his enemies; leads and guides him; confides in him and makes His covenant known to him (2 Samuel 7:18-21). Sometimes when you are in the midst of a difficult situation it is hard to see how it is going to work out, but like David we need to continue to put our hope and trust in God.

During this next week I'll be looking at Psalm 57. I'll post about it next Thursday.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Rahab: she knew what God was doing!

On Sunday a guy at my church preached about Rahab who lived in Jericho, a heathen city, from Joshua 2:9-11. What amazing things Rahab knew about God and about God's people. She recognized that the Lord was acting on behalf of the Israelites (v.10 "the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea") and that they were powerful because of Him (v.10 "what you did to Sihon and Og ... whom you completely destroyed"). She also knew that the Lord had given the land to the Israelites v.9.

It is almost embarrassing or maybe just very humbling, when those who don't know God start telling you stuff about God that you haven't really got a handle on yourself. I had a similar experience the other day. I have been reading a book called "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron. The author talks a lot about God but mostly, as a creative force, not as a personal God. Nevertheless she was saying things about God that were true that I hadn't given a lot of thought. For example she was writing about how extravagantly creative God is. He doesn't just create one pink flower but He created hundreds of pink flowers and in comparison we are often stingy with our own creativity. The author also writes about why we are so reluctant with our own creativity and said much that I identify with. Anyway while I'm trying to get my head around this author, who is mostly likely not a Christian, yet seems to know so much about God's creativity, along comes a preacher talking about Rahab, whom he described as a heathen who knew what God was doing!

Another interesting thing about this book, "The Artist's Way", is that while she is writing about the reasons why artists don't create as much as they could, I'm thinking does the devil try to block all creative projects? Does the devil try to stop anything that in any way reflects God's creativity?

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Devotional Thought : Matthew 16:13-14

"'Who do people say the Son of Man is?' They replied, 'Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets'" Matthew 16:13-14.

Perhaps the disciples were too polite to say and some think you are out of your mind. "When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, 'He is out of his mind'" Mark 3:21. Why wouldn't his family at the very least think that Jesus was a prophet? They lived with Him for almost 30 years, why didn't they realize that there was something different about Jesus? Even those in his hometown didn't notice. "'Where did this man get these things?' they asked. 'What's this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?'" Mark 6:2-4.

So when Jesus began his public ministry no one says, "Oh, of course, Jesus, well he always was a little different from everyone else. Always was a bit of a goody-goody. Always was a bit too religious".

For 30 years Jesus lived a sinless life and no one noticed. Jesus did not stand out as being different and no one suspected that He was the Son of God. I think this says something quite profound about our understanding of a sinless life. A sinless life could go unnoticed amongst people of God because most of our sins are to do with our attitudes, our motives and our thoughts more than our actions. Jesus was sinless in His attitudes, motives and thoughts as well as His actions.

The challenge to us is to let God cleanse the unnoticed parts of our lives.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Psalm 2 - How does God see evil?

In the first three verses people are plotting evil against God and God's response in v.4 is rather surprising. He laughs. I guess it is a bit like the parent who laughs when their four year old stamps their foot and says, I'm leaving home! The parent knows a child hasn't the resources or knowledge to leave. In the same way those who plot evil against God don't have the resources or knowledge to do it, unless God allows it. Of course, God doesn't laugh at the outcome of evil but He laughs at the attitude that says, I can outsmart God or God won't notice me when I do wrong. The rest of the psalm makes it clear that God is control, He is running the show according to His agenda and timetable and one day the whole world will see it. In the meantime the advice to us is to "serve the Lord" v.11. We need to be aware that there is a Greater purpose going on then the one we can physically see and remember that it really is all about Jesus and His Kingdom.

During this next week I'll be looking at Psalm 25. I'll post about it next Thursday.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Saturday, September 17, 2005

To date or not to date

I have been reading bits and pieces of "Boundaries Before Marriage" by Cloud & Townsend. They have written this book in response to feedback and questions they were getting after the release of Joshua Harris' book, "I kissed dating good-bye". They found Harris' book to be rather over the top with its non-dating policy. But worse than that they have found some Christians/some churches have taken an even more extreme view than Harris and declared dating to be sinful!

It reminds me of a discussion on John's blog about drinking. I commented at the time, "It seems that Christians gave up drinking as the church reacted (or over reacted) to the growing problem of alcoholism in our society". It seems that now some Christians or some churches (mostly in America) are over reacting to some dating problems and are now making up rules about not dating. It is really quite amazing how Christians love to put restrictions around things that God has not. I wonder if it is because we find our freedom in Christ so overwhelming that we actually prefer to have rules. When there are rules we don't have to think about or pray through our response to individual issues.

Anyway getting back to "Boundaries Before Marriage", it seems to be a more balanced approach to dating, with some good advice for singles.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Psalm 33 - Unfailing love

Three times in this psalm God's love is described as "unfailing" V.5, v.18 and v.22. Things of earth may fail or not turn out as we wish but God's love is fail proof, something we can totally rely on. Our church use to sing a song called, "Unfailing Love" (I think it is from Hillsong). It says in part: When the darkness of my sins, or my blindness, or my burdens, or my memories so fill my thoughts that I begin to have doubts about God's love for me, then I need Jesus to come and reminded me again and again of His unfailing love.

V.1 says it is "fitting" for us to praise Him. It is the right and proper thing for us to do, regardless of whether we feel like it or not. The appropriate response is for us to praise the Lord, because the Lord is always worthy of our praises.

V.11 "the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations" … V.15 "He who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do". God is not taken by surprise. He knows what He is planning. He knows what others are planning. We can trust Him. "I know not what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future."

During this next week I'll be looking at Psalm 2 I'll post about it next Thursday.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Holiness of God

The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul (Tyndale House, 1985) expanded my thinking enormously. Previously I had this vague idea that God was a bit more holy than people. But no! God is so immeasurably more holy than I could ever imagine and what's more people are so more unholy than I ever understood before. Suddenly the gap between God's holiness and mine wasn't just a mere gap but a gigantic chasm the depth and width of which would make the Grand Canyon look like a mere crack.

Suddenly my faith had to stretch to encompass a God who would choose to bridge the enormous disparity between His holiness and my lack of holiness. My appreciation and understanding of what God achieved through the cross grew significantly.

A very challenging and instructive book that helped my faith grow.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Saturday, September 10, 2005

From glory to glory

I wrote this for my church newsletter:

"The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house ... And in this place I will grant peace ..." Haggai 2:9

In Jeremiah 29:10-11 we read God's promise to His people before the exile. "When the seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfil my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you ... plans to prosper you and not to harm you plans to give you hope and a future." But not everyone came back to Jerusalem, not everyone was there to build the new temple. It had been seventy years, some would have died, some would be too old and some simply chose not to leave Babylon.

After their return we read that the foundation for the new temple was laid. "And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy" Ezra 3:11-13. Some wept, with all new things there is the letting go of the past. We need to mourn our losses so we can move on to the new thing God is doing. Some shouted with joy. There was still a lot of work to be done, after all, only the foundation had been laid. Yet there was much reason to rejoice. God had promised a greater glory in this new temple than in the old one.

This is also His promise to us, to continually change us from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18) and grant us His peace.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Proverbs 30

The thought that occurred to me when reading the first few verses of Proverbs 30 is that I think the writer actually does know God but is going through a period where he feels like he doesn't know God. In human relationships sometimes a friend will take us by surprise and do something we totally didn't expect e.g. move house, change jobs, quit uni and we are left with the feeling that we really didn't know them at all. Sometimes I think a similar thing can happen in our relationship with God. We expect God to do something in particular and it doesn't work out the way we thought it would and we are left feeling like we really don't know God at all. V.4 in particular expresses this thought that the writer feels like he has no knowledge of God. It seems unlikely, to me anyway, that this is his usual state of mind.

I like the way he uses illustrations in the rest of the proverb particularly in the "three things … four things". The examples of animals like ants, badgers, locusts, lizard are great word pictures that teach good values. I also like v.19 how do you explain why some people fall in love with each other? I also heard about a sermon someone preached about v.22 "a servant who becomes a king" and used it talk about how spiritual paupers like you and me become princes in Christ.

During this next week I'll be looking at Psalm 33. I'll post about it next Thursday

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Creative enterprises

I often write down quotes from the books I read and usually I write down the name of the book. But I have come across this interesting quote about creative enterprises that I wrote down and all I can work out is that it was on page 263-264. But I don't know what book! Any ideas?

"The creative process is ... terrifying because you don't know exactly what's going to happen or where it is going to lead. You don't know what new dangers and challenges you'll find. It takes an enormous amount of internal security to begin with the spirit of adventure, the spirit of discovery, the spirit of creativity. Without doubt, you have to leave the comfort zone of base camp and confront an entirely new and unknown wilderness. You become a trailblazer, a pathfinder. You open new possibilities, new territories, new continents so that others can follow ... Most all creative endeavors are somewhat unpredictable. They often seem ambiguous, hit-or-miss, trail and error. And unless people have a high tolerance for ambiguity and get their security from integrity to principles and inner values they find it unnerving and unpleasant to be involved in highly creative enterprises. Their need for structure, certainty and predictability is too high."

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Psalm 17 - Confident of God

The thing that struck me most in this psalm was David's confidence in God, especially in v.8 and v.15.

"Keep me as the apple of your eye" (v.8) implies David knew He was the apple of God's eye and wants to stay there. He knew he was greatly loved and was precious to God, and so are we.

"And I - in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness." (V.15). David was looking forward to the cross (whereas we look back to the cross) to obtain righteousness and David knew with certainity that he would see and would be satisfied. We also need that heart felt assurance.

I was reading Bill Hybels, "Becoming a Contagious Christian" and he said that to be a contagious Christian we must have a heart felt assurance that not only is our life better now than it was before we knew God, but the lives of others will be better too, even through the tough times. I know my own life is immeasurably better now than before I was a Christian.

During this next week I'll be looking at Proverbs 30 (by request). I'll post about it next Thursday.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Praying for boldness

I wrote this for my church newsletter:

"When I called, you answered me; you made me bold and stouthearted." Psalm 138:3

In Acts 4:29 we see the believers praying after Peter and John have been released from a night in jail. "Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness" and the answer in v.31 "After they prayed … they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly". While this is the only recorded prayer for boldness there are about six other occasions in Acts when we read that someone, mostly Paul, spoke the word of God boldly, which suggests that maybe this was something they prayed on a regular basis.

Yet it seems that we don't pray for boldness very often. It is quite a scary thing to pray, especially when we see how promptly God answered. Boldness will help us to initiate conversations about the Lord and put us in situations where we are asked about our faith. "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that your have" 1 Peter 3:15.

Nevertheless it is not God's intention to overwhelm us and He will teach us, "little by little" like He taught the Israelites when they took possession of the land. "Little by little I will drive them out before you until you have increased enough to take possession of the land" Exodus 23:30.

So boldness, like wisdom ("If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, …" James 1:5), is something we can regularly pray for ourselves, and others as we seek to be God's witnesses.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Befriending dead dogs

Yesterday I was at the Dare Conference in Melbourne. Heard some good stuff. Like the story of a missionary in the Philippines who had been witnessing to a guy called Richard. He didn't think it had been going that well because Richard didn't speak much English and the missionary didn't speak much of his language. Then Richard rocked up one night and said he had decided to become a follower of Jesus. The missionary asked him what was it that made him decide. Richard said, "You remembered my name".

The speaker used this story in relation to the incident in David's life where David befriended, Mephibosheth, for the sake of his friend, Jonathan (2 Samuel 9). Mephibosheth saw himself as a "dead dog" (v.8). The speaker's point was that we need to befriend the dead dogs of the world for Jesus' sake. Richard had been one of those who saw himself as a dead dog and couldn't believe that someone would bother to remember his name.

Another speaker spoke about some research she had done into the ways God speaks to different people and came to the interesting conclusion that God will most likely speak to us in our preferred learning style. So if we prefer to learn visually God will often give us pictures, if our preferred learning style is auditory God will give us words, if we learn best kinaesthetically then God will "speak" to us through us sensing things. There is also olfactory learning (smell & taste) but that is fairly uncommon. I found this helpful because I couldn't understand why other people didn't sense things the way I did but it may be because they have a different learning style to me. What a blessing that God that knows us so well and wants to speak to us in the way we can best understand.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Psalm 112 - God's default setting

This psalm describes a person who is living with the blessing and protection of God (v.1-9). It is what I like to think of as God's default settings for a Christian. Of course, the thing about default settings is sometimes they get changed.

God's default settings are such that if we trust God and follow His direction for our lives we will experience His blessing and protection. But there are two things that change God's default settings. The first one is pretty obvious we changed them ourselves when we don't trust God. The second one is less obvious but can be seen very clearly in the life of Job. Job was a righteous person, blameless in fact. He was trusting God and following His direction for his life, he experienced God's default settings like a hedge around him (Job 1:10). But twice God gave Satan permission to mess with the default settings (Job 1:12 & 2:6). This tells us that sometimes we don't experience God's protection and blessing even when we are "doing the right thing". Sometimes this is temporary as was the case with Job but sometimes it can be permanent like it was for John the Baptist. Christop blogs about John in a recent post. Imagine being John the Baptist and hearing about other people receiving miracles while you're stuck in jail and in desperate need of a miracle yourself. Jesus word to John was, "Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me"(Matthew 11:6). We are called to trust God regardless of whether we experience His default settings or not.

My conclusion is that God has a tailor made plan for our lives which may or may not include blessing and protection. So if we see Christians who experience a lot of blessing, even in terms of wealth and prosperity, that's ok. The wealthy and prosperous have their own responsibilities and challenges. And if we see Christians who don't experience lots of blessing and protection, that's ok too because God is God and He is in charge.

During this next week I'll be looking at Psalm 17. I'll post about it next Thursday.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Monday, August 22, 2005

The poor you will always have with you

A lot of the motivation for helping the poor comes from two stories Jesus told, one being the Good Samaritan and the other being the story about the sheep and the goats. In context neither of these stories are actually about helping the non-believing poor.

Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan in order to answer an "expert in the law" who only wanted to defend his own behaviour (Luke 10:29). This "expert" thought he was a good bloke and had done everything necessary to inherit eternal life (v.25) but through this story Jesus effectively tells him, he is in the ditch unable to save himself and in need of mercy (Mark Buchanan in his book, "The Holy Wild" explains this a whole lot better). Nevertheless I am sure if the expert in the law had asked me, "who is my neighbour?" I would have told the story of the Good Samaritan the other way around. I would have the despised Samaritan attacked by robbers and in the ditch and the man bandaging the Samaritan's wounds and taking him to the inn. Then it would make sense to use the story as an example of helping the poor and despised of this world. You see, Jesus is the Good Samaritan. He was the despised One. He was the One who showed mercy and compassion. I am the one in the ditch and in need of help. I'm to love Jesus, the One who shows mercy to me.

In the story of the sheep and the goats there is one word in this story that is consistently overlooked and that is the word "brethren" (Matthew 25:40). "Brethren" it is not a word Jesus uses with unbelievers (see also Mark 3:35). Therefore the story is about supporting other Christians and our responsibilities towards those who know the Lord (see also Galatians 6:10), not necessarily about the poor and needy who don't the Lord.

So I have been looking into the Bible to places where it really does tell us to be concerned about the poor. In the Old Testament history books, God tells His people not to harvest their crops right to the edges so that the poor would have the means of providing food for themselves. This is how Ruth and Naomi survived (Ruth 2:2). In the prophet's writings in the Old Testament, they condemn the oppression and mistreatment of the poor very strongly. Jesus in the Gospels talks about preaching the good news to the poor. Paul is eager that "we should continue to remember the poor" (Galatians 2:10). I found in Psalms and Proverbs lots of general instruction about being generous and kind to the poor, e.g Proverbs 31:20 the virtuous woman who "opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy".

Still I can't help but wonder, do we emphasis helping the poor too much, and at the expense of the other things Jesus told us to do?

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Saturday, August 20, 2005

God gives big dreams

Just spent two days at a retreat. This morning the speaker said, "If your dream is do-able it is not big enough". This was in the context of talking about how God always calls us to do things that we can't do in our own strength.

We looked at the story of Caleb and Joshua and the ten other spies (whose names no one remembers). These ten spies reported, "we seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them" (Numbers 13:33). Yet 40 years later Rahab told the new spies, "I know that the Lord has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt … "(Joshua 2:9-10).

We need to remember that when we step out in faith the devil is melting in fear because of us.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

On-line study, Psalm 62

I'm going away for a couple of days so I'm posting this a day early. After reading this psalm a couple of times it was tempting to read v.1-2 and skip to v.5-7. V.3-4 seems to be an intrusion, an interruption. As I thinking about this it occur to me that life is often like that. We get to a place in our Christian life where we do find rest in God but something unexpected happens, we forget to trust God and lose our peace. So the Psalmist reminds himself that his hope is in God and tells his soul to again rest in God alone.

There are some good words of advice for our hearts in this psalm. V.8 tells us to "pour out your hearts to Him". David certainly did this. He was never afraid to tell God exactly how he felt no matter how happy, sad or angry he was and God never rebuked him for it. It is not our emotions that cause us problems but what we do about them, pouring them out to God is always a good idea. V.10 tells us "though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them". If we are good stewards of the money God enables us to earn it is not unusual for our riches to increase but the secret is not to lose our focus and make money our aim.

V11-12 tells us that God is both strong and loving. When confronted with the question why does God allow suffering? Some say God is loving but not strong enough to do anything about it. Others say God is strong but not loving enough to do anything about it. Here we see that God is both loving and strong, so much so that in these verses God speaks about them as one and the same. God's love is a strong love, so strong it sent Jesus to the cross.

During this next week I'll be looking at Psalm 112. I'll post about it next Thursday.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Church Culture

Had an interesting discussion about church culture at my Bible study group tonight. Also discussed the question, "what would Jesus do if He came to our church?"

In Luke 4:16 it says, "He went to Nazareth ... and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom". From there Jesus went along with the procedures and practices of the synagogue. His sermon made them furious v.28 but there is no indication that He tried to change the pattern of what they did, but He did confront them over principles.

When I became a Christian I was so rapt to be saved that I would have accepted any type of church structure. I was just so thankful to be a child of God and part of God's family.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Saturday, August 13, 2005

On writing : a memoir of the craft

A friend went to a creative workshop by Reuben Morgan at the recent Hillsong Conference. Reuben recommended Stephen King's book, "On Writing : a memoir of the craft" saying in contained a lot of good tips for writers if you can handle the swearing. I've never read a Stephen King book before but since I'm interested in writing I decided to give it a go.

I really enjoyed the book (but not the swearing) and now understand why Stephen King is such a popular author, he is a great writer. The book is non-fiction and the first 100 pages or so is autobiographical as he explains how he became a writer. The next part of the book includes many his writing tips for fictional writers but there was a lot that is useful for other writers. Even in terms of the nitty gritty of how to write so many pages.

Apart from the writing tips the thing that really interested me was the obvious Christian influence. I'll include a few quotes to show you what I mean.

From the Foreword:
One rule of the road not directly stated elsewhere in this book: 'The editor is always right.' The corollary is that no writer will take all of his or her editor's advice; for all have sinned and fallen short of editorial perfection … '

Pg. 33 (Childhood) :
On my bureau was a Bible won for memorizing verses in Methodist Youth Fellowship.

Pg. 61 (Talking about getting married) :
And while I believe in God I have no use for organized religion.

Pg. 174 (Talking about writing generally) :
If God gives you something you can do, why in God's name wouldn't you do it?

Pg. 230 (Talking about characters) :
And sometimes the good guy tries to turn away from doing the right things, as Johnny Smith does … as Jesus Christ himself did, if you think about that prayer ('take this cup from my lips') in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Pg 246 (Talking about themes in his books) :
I have many interests, but only a few that are deep enough to power novels. These deep interests include … the question of why, if there is a God, such terrible things happen.

There were others but these were the most interesting.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Thursday, August 11, 2005

On-line study, Psalm 92

V.1-5, & 8 Talk about singing, praising, making music and exalting the Lord and then v.11 talks about seeing and hearing the defeat of the enemy. This reminds me of 2 Chronicles 20:22 "as they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against their enemies." In the Old Testament the enemy was a physical threat. From Ephesians 6:12 we know that "our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers … authorities …powers … spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." But I believe the same thing holds true, that as we sing unto the Lord we are inflicting damage on the devil (see also Psalm 149:5-9). Singing unto the Lord (as opposed to having a sing along) is important because it is a form of spiritual warfare.

V.4 "For you make me glad". It is not the things of this world that ultimately make us glad, new car, new clothes, new boyfriend/girlfriend etc. but rather it is God who makes us glad for all He is and all He has done.

V.12-15 Contains similar thoughts to Jeremiah 17:7-9 and Psalm 1:3 which are: the trees flourish (leaves are always green, leaf does not wither) and bear fruit (yields its fruit in season). The idea is consistent growth and fruitfulness, which is more than just being faithful. We are expected to keep growing in the Lord, since God has always more things for us to learn and apply to our lives. As we keep growing the fruit of the Spirit will become more obvious. If we are consistent in our walk with the Lord, we will find ourselves having opportunities like Fred did (see previous post).

During this next week I'll be looking at Psalm 62. I'll post about it next Thursday.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

You are being watched

Last night at the Bible study group that I attend Fred shared this story.

Fred at his work place, had worked with a particular person for 18 years and had never witnessed to him, yet he would have known that Fred attended church. One day this man entered Fred's office and unloaded a whole lot of difficulties that he was currenly experiencing then said, "You know God, do you think He can help me?"

("Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." 1 Peter 3:15)

I made the comment, "Do you realize that he had been watching you for 18 years?"

Fred replied, "Yes and isn't that a scary thought".

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Monday, August 08, 2005

Evidence for being a Christian

I wrote this for my church newsletter recently:

"By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" John 13:35.

Some time ago there was a fad going around which asked the question: If you were arrested for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you? The question was confusing because of the legal implication. It led to thinking about physical evidence whereas the evidence for being a Christian is intangible. Jesus said his disciples would be known for their love.

We would prefer more demonstrative evidence. In the early church they sometimes became distracted with Sabbath keeping, circumcision and dietary laws because these could provide concrete evidence of whether someone was a Christian. In the same way we can become distracted with external activities but this is not the evidence that Jesus is looking for in his disciples.

John Ortberg in his book, "The Life You're Always Wanted" comments that for him being a loving person requires an enormous amount of energy. He realized that if he was serious about becoming a more loving person, he was going to have to get more sleep! We may think the only way to mature as a Christian is to read the Bible and pray, but sometimes we need to do the practical things, like get enough rest.

It is tempting to measure spiritual maturity in concrete terms. How much Bible knowledge someone has, how well they pray but that is not how God measures maturity. The acid test is how loving are we? Paul tells Timothy (I Timothy 1:5) "The goal of our instruction is love." The aim of any spiritual discipline is not that we get on A+ for theology. The aim is that we become more loving.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Saturday, August 06, 2005

The Karate Kid

Finished reading "Things Unseen : living in the light of forever" by Mark Buchanan. Mark tells a lot of stories about people he knows but also uses a lot of illusions, often from movies. The illustration that impacted me the most in this book was one from the movie, "The Karate Kid".

Apparently Daniel in the movie wants to learn Karate and asks the Japanese gardener to teach him. In exchange for lessons Daniel must do some chores for the gardener. The first day he has to wax the car, the next day he must paint the fence and the third day he must sand the deck. By now Daniel is upset because he has had no Karate lessons, or so he thinks. In doing each of these chores the gardener has been very particular about Daniel's hand movements. Now the gardener attempts to attack Daniel with Karate moves and each time Daniel is able to block the hit with the waxing, painting and sanding movements he had learnt doing the chores. He had learnt Karate unawares. Mark suggests it is sometimes like that with the things God is teaching us. Often to us the things we must do are repetitive, uninspiring and pointless but God is at work. We are learning spiritual things unawares.

It reinforces to me that so often I know so little about what is really going on spiritually. It reminds me that in Job 1 & 2, Job is never aware of the conversations between God and Satan that takes place there. Even after Job's trails are over when surely it wouldn't have mattered, he still never finds out about these conversations that had had an immense bearing on his life. For me it means because I have such a limited perspective here on earth, I must trust my heavenly Gardener that He knows what He is doing and in time I will find I have learnt spiritual truths unawares.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Thursday, August 04, 2005

On-line study, Psalm 49

I have recently finished reading "Things Unseen : living in the light of forever" by Mark Buchanan (which I plan to blog about soon) and this psalm had amazing similar ideas to what Mark Buchanan was saying in the book.

V.2 & 10 tell us that in the light of eternity there is no difference between rich and poor, high and low so the conclusion is not to be overawed (v.16) by those who have wealth.

In order not to be overawed we need to think like Abraham. Hebrews 11:9-10 "Abraham made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents … For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God." This is quite amazing since the promised land was the special inheritance God gave to His people but Abraham recognized that eternity was in his heart. Our focus too needs to be more on eternal issues, it is so easy to be caught up with the non essentials. Besides eternity is a lot longer than the 80 odd years we can expect to spend on planet earth.

V. 7-9 How costly to ransom a life yet this is what Jesus did for me. I was reading this prior to going to church last Sunday and thought to myself that it would make a good a communion talk. (Interestingly enough the communion leader didn't turn up. I wondered if this meant anything? Or nothing?)

During this next week I'll be looking at Psalm 92. I'll post about it next Thursday.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


Today I received in the mail my newsletter from Victorian Library Technicians. There was a report about a trivia night that was held and included two sample questions but NO ANSWERS!

So I was wondering if anyone in blog land knows the answer to these:

The American archives and the Library of Congress feature in which recent movie?

Which singer has just visited Melbourne and has an album where each song has been assigned a Dewey decimal classification number?

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Worship that costs us nothing

I saw that book, "Why men hate going to church" advertised in Koorong again this week. I find the title rather annoying. After all I'm sure that not all men hate going to church and I expect there are quite a few women who hate going to church too. Another thing that is annoying is that most church leaderships that I have been involved with are dominated by men so if they think there is a problem why haven't they fixed it? Probably it is an American book, perhaps things are different there.

It makes me think about sequels, "Why introverts hate going to church"; "Why artistic/creative people hate going to church" etc. etc. Perhaps the problem is to do with our expectations of a church service.

We buy comfortable chairs for our churches, install heating for winter, air conditioning for summer, buy good instruments and data projectors all to make our worship experience more comfortable and while there is nothing wrong with heaters and fans, I wonder if it effects our expectations. We expect our worship experience to be easy and comfortable.

The first time David brought the ark back to Jerusalem he put it on a cart. When disaster struck he realized he had done the wrong thing and the next time he made the Levites (priests) carry it using poles on their shoulders in the way that God had outlined. So why did David use a cart the first time? The ark was overlaid with gold it was very heavy and secondly it was being moved a long way. A cart was an easy and comfortable solution, but God was not pleased. Sometimes worship is hard work and God does not want us to take short cuts. At the end of 2 Samuel David wants to buy Araunah's threshing floor to build an altar to the Lord. Araunah offers it to David for free along with whatever else he needs for the offering but David says, "No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing." I wonder how often our worship costs us nothing.

Does this mean we should all go and join the Amish people, getting rid of electricity and all our creature comforts? No, but I do think we need to change our expectations about worship. Most of us are not in positions where we can influence the content and direction of our church services. Some days when we are sitting in a church service and our minds start to wander, let them wander to the image of the Levites carrying the ark to Jerusalem. Some days worship is not going to be easy and we are the royal priesthood (2 Peter 2:9).

One of the other things we need to consider is, if I were to win my neighbour/friend/relative to the Lord would my church be a good place for them to connect with other Christians, be instructed in the Word of God and be given opportunity to express their worship to God? I don't think a church has to be anywhere near perfect to do these basic things. The church I went to when I first became a Christian had church services that left a lot to be desired but there were Christians there who taught me about God.

Next time we go to a church service perhaps we need to go with the attitude I'm going to worship God whatever the inconvenience, whatever the monotony, whatever the cost.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Thursday, July 28, 2005

On-line study, Psalm 121

v.2 tells me that my help comes from the Lord but before I can receive that help I need to acknowledge that I need it and in v.1 "I lift up my eyes" we find that acknowledgement. To lift up one's eyes is a deliberate signal that I am looking for something beyond my limited resources.

v.4 "will neither slumber nor sleep" is the assurance that although God may feel absence (or asleep) He is not. Nothing takes God by surprise not even a hole in the ozone layer. I remember reading this verse - v.6 "the sun will not harm you by day" shortly after concerns were raised about the hole in the ozone layer. How comforting to know that God doesn't ever says, "Oh, I never thought of that". God is in control. He is Sovereign. He has everything in hand.

Love to hear your thoughts. During this next week I'll be looking at Psalm 49. I'll post about it next Thursday.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

A thought provoking evening

Today I went shopping in Bendigo, bought some new clothes and a new book that I can't wait to read. It is called, "Things Unseen : living in the light of forever" by Mark Buchanan. I have read several others of his and really enjoyed them.

Then tonight I went to a Bible study group which I recently started attending. We are looking at 1 John and tonight we looked at chapter 2. John mentions three groups of people: children probably 0-12 years, young men (and women) probably 13-30 years and fathers (and mothers) over 30. The discussion centred around the need in our churches for each group to be acknowledged (rather than ignored); how each of these groups have something unique to offer and how they should support and encourage each other. We talked a bit about older people mentoring younger people. As we were leaving the leader told us not to let it just be a good idea but to take action in line with what God was saying. It was a thought provoking evening.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Clearing The Cobwebs

Today I have been re-reading "Clearing the Cobwebs : Understanding Christian Experience" by Kel Willis. In the book Kel talks about when we first become a Christian our focus is on what God has done for us. But sometimes, after we have been a Christian a while, our focus slowly drift away from what God has done and we begin to focus on what we are doing for God. We need to return to our original focus. Kel points out that God's grace is not only available to save us but also available so we can live the Christian life. We need to focus, not on what we do, but on what God does. He also has a bit to say about the church:

"The average non-Christian has not consciously rejected Christianity. He just doesn't think about it because he isn't confronted by the compelling reality of the risen Christ visibly expressed in the lives of His people. The majority of non-Christians find the Christianity they observe to be uncompelling and uninteresting. They see nothing that would cause them to consider it as a viable alternative to their life-styles. The sad fact is that the Church seems antiquated and meaningless to many of them. Yet the believers in the New Testament turned the world upside down. They could not be ignored. Their lives and the message they brought permeated their communities. Obviously God intended the Church to be a dynamic and relevant community with eternal significance. The fact that Jesus Christ is alive and at work today in people's lives should be evident in those of us who say we know Him."

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Thursday, July 21, 2005

On-line study, Psalm 48

This psalm mentions "city of our God" quite a lot which reminds me that because of Jesus, God lives in me. Revelation 21:3 says "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God."

"He has shown himself to be her fortress" (v.3). God is my fortress, my safe place. V.8 tells me that "God makes her secure forever". My relationship with God is permanent. The prodigal son never stops being a son even in the pig pen. On his return he said I am no longer worthy to be called your son, but the Father would hear nothing of it and demanded the robe, the ring and the sandals be put on the son. Reuben Morgan wrote a song which says: "I'm so secure, You're here with me, You stay the same, Your love remains here in my heart … You'll never let me go." Much in the world is unstable but I know that my relationship as a child of God is secure.

V.5 tells me that the enemy is terrified of me when I know that my security is in God. It reminds me of several occasions in the Old Testament when God confused the enemy and they fled without the Israelites even having to fight. James tells me to submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee from me.

V.9 "we meditate on your unfailing love". To meditate on God's love, causes me to think about the sacrifice He made for me, the good things He gives me – His peace, His righteousness etc., His words of encouragement in His Word, the time He wants to spend with me, the sense of His presence when I worship Him. As I think about God's love, my love for God grows in response. As John says, we love because He first loved us.

Love to hear your thoughts on Psalm 48. During this next week I'll be looking at Psalm 121. I'll post about it next Thursday.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Having enough time

I have been looking for a job in a library for the last couple of months without success. Interesting that for the first time in over twenty years I don't have a job, I'm not studying and I don't have any children living at home. This should mean that I have got time to do all those things I use to say that I didn't have time to do. So why is it that some of those things are still not getting done? Obviously I just don't want to do them which surprises me because there are even some books I still haven't read.

I have had to eliminate some phrases from my language like, "I haven't got time" and "I'm too busy" which has made me realize how quickly and without thinking I often use these phrases. I have had to get more truthful about why I don't want to do something.

It is an interesting learning curve. Unexpectedly I find having enough time is quite a challenge. Why is it that the tasks I do have to do, expand to fill the time available? So if the only thing I have to do today is clean the house then it takes all day to clean the house. Motivation is also an issue, if I can't be late for anything does it matter if I stay in bed an extra half-hour? Laziness kicks in and the less I do, the less I want to do.

Changing circumstances have caused me to rethink some my habits and priorities. Perhaps this is why God disturbs our comfortable routines every once in a while.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Saturday, July 16, 2005

On a lighter note

Someone said to me that my blog was too serious. I thought they might have a point so I thought I'd share a favourite story of mine by Kathleen Yao that I read in the Reader's Digest some time ago.

"It was my first year at university and the lure of the beach was much stronger than that of studying. Too busy sunbathing, I didn't even buy the book we were studying at the time – The Stranger, by Camus – and decided I could get away with it by making an analysis based on what the other students said.

Everyone was commenting on the protagonist's behaviour after his mother's death, so when the professor asked me what I thought. I said I would get back to him, as I had only read up to the mother's death.

He told me to see him after class, I realised why when a fellow student showed me the book. The first line read: 'Mother died today.'"

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Thursday, July 14, 2005

On-line study - Psalm 86

The first thing that came to mind was in v.3 "for I call to You all day long", then again in v.5 "who call to You" and v.7 "I will call to You" the psalmist regularly calls upon the Lord during the day. It is quite a challenge really when I think that I can sometimes go nearly all day without thinking about the Lord. But here the Lord is never far from the Psalmist thoughts. And when we call on Him we find He is forgiving, good and abounding in love (v.5).

The second thing that occurred to me was v.8 "there is none like You". In what way is there none like our God? I thought about other spiritual leaders who have said wise things but the verse goes on to say "no deeds can compare with yours". So even if others are good with words only our God does marvellous deeds (also v.10). I know in my life God has done healing, restorative things that only He could do. We don't worship a God who is just wise but One who has the ability and the interest to intervene in the affairs of the world and the affairs of our lives.

From saying that God is great and does marvellous deeds, the Psalmist asks for an "undivided heart" to "fear Your name" (being in awe of God) and commits himself to praising God "with all his heart". Our hearts can become divided when we get distracted and worried about many things like Martha (Luke 10:41). But when we think about God, the amazing things He does, His awesomeness then we will want to praise Him with all our hearts.

Love to hear your thought on Psalm 86. During this next week I'll be looking at Psalm 48. Hope you do too. I'll post about it next Thursday.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Free gifts are hard to take

Since doing the quiz, I've been thinking about grace and I wrote this for the front page of my church newsletter:

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." 2 Corinthians 4:7

When Jesus went to wash Peter's feet he initially said, "you shall never wash my feet" and then in the very next verse he says "not just my feet but my hands and my head as well". Peter has gone from one extreme to the other. The tendency to go from one extreme to the other is not unique to Peter.

On the one hand we want God to take over our lives completely and just do everything for us. On the other hand we put pressure on ourselves by thinking that a Christian should be busy doing good things. Of course, the answer lies somewhere in the middle but where?

God wants to instruct us, guide us and be with us. He is Lord but he doesn't swallow us up in a take over bid. He shines through our temperament and personality, like treasure in jars of clay. Neither do we have to weary ourselves trying to please Him. If we are His children, He is already pleased with us.

The middle ground is to live by grace. God's grace is not only available to save us but also available so we can live the Christian life. Yet grace is sometimes difficult to accept. Free gifts are not as easy to receive as one might think. Flannery O'Connor said, "All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful". Painful because grace changes our perception of ourselves. We are not as self-sufficient as we thought. Nevertheless we need to avail ourselves of grace on a daily basis and it is ours for the asking. Simply ask.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Sunday, July 10, 2005

The Life You've Always Wanted

After reading a few book memes, I borrowed a copy of "The Life You've Always Wanted" by John Ortberg. I really enjoyed it even though it was a bit "bloke-y" at times. I appreciated his honesty, loved his sense of humour and gained much from his insights.

From the blurb: The heart of Christianity is about transformation—about a God who isn't just concerned with our "spiritual lives," but who wants to impact every aspect of living. It's realizing that God meets us not in a monastery but on Main Street, and that all of everyday life has the potential to be lived as if Jesus himself were the one living it.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Thursday, July 07, 2005

That quiz

I eventually found the quiz! I don't mind being called an evangelical and the rest is fairly even which is good because I think most Christian denominations have something to offer. And I do think God's grace is totally amazing.

You scored as Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan. You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God's grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavly by John Wesley and the Methodists.

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan






Neo orthodox


Classical Liberal


Reformed Evangelical




Roman Catholic


Modern Liberal


Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Is an on-line Bible study group possible?

During a previous post – allowing God to speak – the issue of the value of Bible study guides was raised. It seems to me that study guides are only as good as the leader who uses it. I have been in groups where the leader has turned the study guide into a comprehension exercise and alternatively been in groups where the leader has used the guide very effectively. Bit like a hammer, in the hand of a good craftsman even a bad hammer will be effective.

Nevertheless the beauty of having a Bible study without a study guide is it simpler, cheaper and gives God time and space to speak to people rather than just the leader. Also it doesn't need people to be in the same room at the same time. So yes, it can even be done on-line on a blog site.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Book Meme

I was tagged to do this book meme thingy. I'm also not a fan of things you do and pass on, but since it is about books how could I resist.

Total books owned, ever: Too many to count, several hundreds.

Last book I bought: Come Thirsty by Max Lucado said some good things.

Last book I read: The Introvert Advantage : How to thrive in an extrovert world by Marti Olsen Laney. Fascinating book, which I'm reading for the second time.

Five books that mean a lot to me: Your God Is Too Safe and The Holy Wild both by Mark Buchanan. I really like Mark Buchanan's writing. He brings fresh perspective to familar ideas. The Holiness of God by Sproul which blew me away. I had seriously underestimated God's holiness. The Introvert Advantage as mentioned above, helped me understand myself better. And I do need to include the Bible.

I think I'm suppose to tag someone else and since the only people I know with a blog who haven't already complete it are Trav & Av. I'll tag them if they feel they would like to.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Allowing God to speak

One of the most interesting small groups I've ever been apart of started when three of us from church decided to get together and pray. After a while we thought it would be good to do some Bible study. So we would randomly pick a psalm and during the week we would read it several times expecting God to speak to us from that psalm. When we met the next week we would share what God had said to us. We wouldn't use a commentary or study guide, we would just allow God to speak to us through His Word. As the leader of the group it was a bit daunting. I mean what if God didn't say anything to me and I had nothing to share? We ran the group that way for about a semester and God never left me with nothing to share. Then circumstances changed and we didn't continue meeting. If we continued I would have liked to have moved on to other books of the Bible, but Psalms was a good place to start.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Pictures of me

Thought it was time I updated by photo.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Monday, June 27, 2005

Photo for blog

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Sharing faith

I think the reason Christians are generally reluctant to share their faith is because they don't have much faith to share. A lot of Christians don't expect God to do anything out of the ordinary unless they have a problem so if pressured to share a faith story they tell second hand stories of other people's answered prayer. It seems like their faith doesn't impact their lives Mondays to Saturdays. I wonder if they ever pray for direction or wisdom or guidance on Mondays to Saturdays? Or if they do pray for it, do they then look for it or expect it?

It was very apparent to me while I was away on holidays earlier this year that God was orchestrating our days and on several occasions we unexpectedly met people we knew but perhaps the most striking evidence of God's involvement in our holiday happened on my birthday. On that day we were travelling along an isolated part of the highway. About lunch time we came across a petrol station with a small cafe. Since the next opportunity for lunch might be some way off we decided to stop. As we entered the cafe I was struck by the "Happy Birthday" signs that were stuck on the windows and noticed that one of the long tables was set with birthday decorations. Someone from the community was celebrating their birthday in the same cafe that we chose for lunch on the same day as my birthday. I felt very blessed to eat my lunch surrounded by happy birthday signs. Some may say it was a mere coincidence but I expect and believe that God is going to impact my daily life and some days He does so in obvious ways. Parents some times arrange special blessings for their children and some days God arranges special blessings for us, if we have eyes to see them. I believe this was one of those occasions.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo