Thursday, April 20, 2006

Gone on holidays!

I won't be posting for a week or two while I'm on holidays. Hope you can come by when I'm back. I have been reading "The Power of Full Engagement" by Loehr & Schwartz and I hope to post about it when I get back. Meanwhile I hope to find some kind library staff or an internet café where I can at least keep up with what's happening in blogasphere and hopefully write a comment or two.

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Spontaneous favours vs forced favours

"But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do will be spontaneous and not forced" Philemon 14.

This verse refers to Paul sending Onesimus back to Philemon. Paul knew Philemon since he was a Christian at the church in Colosse. Onesimus had been Philemon's slave who had apparently stolen from Philemon and then ran away. But in the amazing providence of God, Onesimus went to Rome, met Paul and subsequently became a Christian. Paul was now sending Onesimus back to Philemon. Paul says, "I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me" v. 13.

Paul could have allowed Onesimus to stay with him which would have made Paul's life a bit easier while he was in prison but he didn't want to presume upon Philemon's kindness. Even though it seems clear that Philemon would have been happy to help Paul in any way he could ("knowing that you will do even more that I ask" v.21).

We do others a disservice when we presume upon their kindness or put them under some sort of obligation to assist even if it is for the cause of the gospel. We may see a great opportunity to advance the kingdom but we mustn't pressurize fellow believers into in doing a kindness for someone without their freely given consent.

It is God who convicts, challenges and guides His children, not us. Our service for God needs to given freely from a heart of thankfulness, not from a sense of obligation.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Why first borns rule the world

I have just read Michael Grose's book, "Why first borns rule the world and last borns want to change it". I found this book fascinating but then I do enjoy books about personality and temperament. I've added this to my list of favourite books which includes, "The Introvert Advantage" and "The Enneagram". I think the reason I like these sorts of books is it helps me to understand why people behave the way they do. And it is not just other people I have trouble understanding sometimes I wonder why I act the way I do!

Early in the book the author explains his theory like this: "Birth-order theory works so well because we are social beings trying to find a niche in our social groups. The first social group we belong to is our family. Within our family we compete with our siblings for different places, positions or niches."

A very brief overview, without going into the variations caused by parental influence, gender, spacing and other factors goes like this:
First-borns tend to be goal-setters; high achievers; perfectionists; responsible; rule keepers; determined; detail people; highly organized.
Seconds and middles tend to be flexible; diplomatic; peacemakers; free spirits; generous; competitive.
Youngest children tend to be risk-takers; persistent; outgoing; charmers; ideas people; creative; challenge authority.
Single (only) children tend to be achievement-oriented; conservative; confident; articulate; healthy in their self-esteem; inflexible.

In the book the author also explains the difference between temperament and personality like this: "Temperament is often confused with personality but the two concepts are different. Temperament has a notion of permanence and is more closely related to biology than personality, which includes a broader range of attributes. The Australian Temperament Projects distinguishes between temperament and personality: 'There are no clear ways of distinguishing between these terms temperament and personality, but there is reasonable agreement that temperament more closely represents an inborn 'style' of behaving, something which is observable in early childhood, well before an individual has had time to amass enough experience to have formed a personality.' Children's temperament tends to remain similar throughout their lives, however it does modify according to their experiences".

It is a great read if you are into these type books.

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Sunday, April 16, 2006

Devotional Thought : Colossians 3:16

I wrote this for Easter Sunday. A time to be profoundly grateful.

"… as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God" Colossians 3:16.

In the book "Recapture the Wonder" by Ravi Zacharias, he says, "The first necessary component of wonder is profound gratitude … But the word gratitude may need a little explanation. It comes from the same word as the word freedom. When something is gratis, we consider it free. Gratitude is the freeing expression of a free heart towards one who freely gave … We have enjoyed so much of God's blessing, yet people have forgotten God and gradually He has been blotted out from our collective memory."

We cannot legislate for people to be grateful. We may insist on the giving of thanks, for example, "say thank you to grandma for the present." But we can't force people to be grateful. It is a heart attitude and must be given freely.

Gratitude acknowledges that we are in someone's debt. We feel obligated to someone because of something they have freely done for us. It can make us feel dependant on someone else's efforts. Perhaps this explains why we do not always feel a sense of gratitude. We may not want to acknowledge our indebtness, our inadequacies or our need.

Nevertheless each week as we part take in communion we are acknowledging these very things. We needed a Saviour and God provided.

*And I'm forever grateful to You; I'm forever grateful for the cross
I'm forever grateful to You; That You came to seek and save the lost.

*I'm Forever Grateful by Mark Altrogge © 1985 People of Destiny Intl.

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Being shrewd

I wonder why it is that we seem to gravitate towards some books/stories/parables/verses in the Bible more than others. I started going to church over 30 years ago and I don't think I have ever heard a sermon on the parable of the shrewd manager in Luke 16:1-15. Here is the really tricky bit: "The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind then are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings" Luke 16:8-9.

Also I've rarely heard a sermon where the following verse is mentioned: "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves" Matthew 10:16.

So what does it mean to be shrewd?

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Our response is worship

I wrote this for last Sunday's church newsletter (still under the influence of the study on Romans). God has done so much to solve the "sin problem". I'm sure He does not want us to be constantly berating ourselves for our short comings but rather moving on to the establishing of His Kingdom.

"It is because of Him (God) that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption" 1 Corinthians 1:30.

Paul in Romans 16:7 referring to some of his relatives says, " … and they were in Christ before I was." He uses the term "in Christ" whereas today we might say they became Christians (or believers). So we see that, when we look at the verse in 1 Corinthians 1:30, because we are Christians we have been given righteousness, holiness and redemption.

This is similar to the passage we looked at recently in Galatians where we read we are credited with righteousness. I find this astounding. We don't start our Christian lives so much with a clean sheet but rather with our accounts full of credit, with no need for us to work for brownie points and with it being impossible for us to get into debt since Christ died for our sins past, present and future. All this because we trust not in our own righteousness but in the righteousness that He has given us.

This means the focus is no longer on what we must do to live a righteous life. It is not about what activities we do or abstain from. The Christian life is not a religion of moral behaviour and the following of rituals but rather it is a relationship with a loving Father who is pleased with us since we are His children.

Now our focus can be on God and all He has done for us. So surely our response is to worship Him.

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Sunday, April 09, 2006

What type of writer should you be?

I did a blog quiz and discovered I should be a film writer!! But I really don't think so.

What Type of Writer Should You Be?

***You Should Be a Film Writer***

You don't just create compelling stories, you see them as clearly as a movie in your mind. You have a knack for details and dialogue. You can really make a character come to life. Chances are, you enjoy creating all types of stories. The joy is in the storytelling.
And nothing would please you more than millions of people seeing your story on the big screen!

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Saturday, April 08, 2006

Are we hated enough?

Read this quote by Dr Martin Lloyd-Jones in Every Day with Jesus:
"The world, in a sense, likes the moral man. It never hates him because it realises that he is acting in his own strength, and in that way he is paying a compliment to fallen human nature. The world hates the true Christian because Christ Himself and the true Christian condemn the natural man in a way that nobody else does."

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Thursday, April 06, 2006

Last quotes from "Recapture the Wonder"

G.K. Chesterton said something to the effect that Gods infinite capacity is microcosmically revealed in a child's capacity to exult in the monotonous. Do it again! Do it again! Do it again! Pg 141

I believe it was to give us opportunity to reflect that God instituted festivals. Pg. 156

The third necessary way to retain wonder is to delight in discussion… I think with envy of the discussions around a table that the likes of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein had with others. Pg 159

Elton Trueblood said, "Though I am as conscious as are most people of the inadequacies of the local church and though I am sure that the church is not the building … I can never forget that, apart from the poor little fellowships in such poor buildings, there isn't a chance in the world that I would be enlisted in the cause of Christ." Pg.161

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Recapture the wonder - quotes continued

Until we see in ourselves the uniqueness of God's touch, we will always want to be someone else and will live under the illusion that being someone else would be better. Pg. 125

The first necessary component of wonder is profound gratitude … But the word gratitude may need a little explanation. It comes from the same word as the word freedom. When something is gratis, we consider it free. Gratitude is the freeing expression of a free heart towards one who freely gave… We have enjoyed so much of God's blessing, yet people have forgotten God and gradually He has been blotted out from our collective memory… Even the one time of the year when "thanks" comes into our vocabulary, Thanksgiving, we now hear referred to as "Turkey Day". What an incredible reduction, from a heartfelt state of gratitude to celebrating a plateful of food. pg 87-92

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Recapture the wonder by Ravi Zacharias

While this book didn't altogether grab me it did makes some useful points. This is his conclusion:

The components of gratitude and truth, love and hope bring the realization of wonder. The disciplines of study, of reading and reflecting, of dialoguing in depth and praying with belief sustain the wonder. In short, wonder is captured in one word – worship. Pg 164

I have written here some of the bits that I found helpful. For you they may be confusing because they are of necessarily out of context. Nevertheless I hope you find them interesting.

By filling the imagination with so many possibilities we kill the very delight each was intended to bring. We really make a two-pronged mistake in giving so much so soon, limiting the thrill of each. The first is the assumption that a child can handle abundance, and the second that boredom is cured by the possibility of more options. pg. 40

From G.K. Chesterton on fairy tales: "Have you noticed that the one to whom the condition is given never responds by saying, 'How come?'" Perhaps, he suggests, this is because if one did dare to demand of the fairy godmother the reason for the condition, she might just as easily counter, "If you want it all explained, tell me why there is even is a Fairyland?" Fantasy does not mean unlimited possibilities. It is not a game, but it has inescapable rules. pg. 45

More quotes tomorrow.

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Sunday, April 02, 2006

Good things keeping us from the best

"But Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works" Romans 9:31-32.

Earlier in this chapter Paul listed the blessings that Israel had received, "theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ" v.4-5. Yet it all counted for nothing in terms of salvation because they pursued righteousness by works and not by faith.

The Message puts v.31-32 like this: "How could they miss it? Because instead of trusting God, they took over. They were absorbed in what they themselves were doing. They were so absorbed in their 'God projects' that they didn't notice God right in front of them."

How easy it is to become absorbed in what we are doing and forget about God. Even when the very thing we are absorbed in, is a good thing. It may even be a church thing. Living by faith is challenging and confronting. God is indeed right there in front of us loving us, encouraging us, convicting us and yet sometimes it is all too overwhelming. We just want to ignore Him and live comfortable lives without having to wrestle with issues of faith.

Nevertheless anything that keeps us from focusing on God and trusting Him will ultimately takes us away from God. Often it is not the bad things in life that keep us from God's best but surprisingly it is the good things.

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