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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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."

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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).

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