Sunday, July 30, 2006

Book Meme

I volunteered to be tagged to do this book meme. (For the purposes of this exercise I have decided to leave the Bible out, since it answers just about every question.)

1. One book that changed your life:

Victory Over the Darkness by Neil Anderson. After reading this book I began reading others of his. Neil Anderson's teaching on our identity in Christ changed my life.

2. One book that you've read more than once:

Difficult to answer as there are quite a few books I've read more than once. The most well worn book on my bookshelf is The Enneagram. The first time I read this book I was having a difficult relationship with someone. This book totally changed the way I related to them and it helped immensely. Consequently I probably went a bit overboard and tried to analysis everyone I knew thereby reading the book several times. Also the last 10% of the book gets very complicated and I was very keen to understand it so I kept re reading it. In retrospect I think the last 10% is probably not worth worrying about.

3. One book you'd want on a desert island:

The first thing that came to mind was to take the longest book in my house. On investigation this proved to be Matthew Henry Concise Commentary on the Bible. Having dipped into this on a couple of occasions and found that he was so busy being concise he didn't really say anything I decided against it. Then I thought I could take a puzzle book as I quite like puzzles. The ones I usually buy have 67 puzzles in them (don't you think 67 is an odd number of puzzles to put in a book??). Then I thought if I finished the puzzles, but I was still on the desert island that would be awful. So I decided to take a long novel. I don't normally read a lot of fiction but some years ago I read and enjoyed Leon Uris' Exodus and since it has about 700 pages it should keep me going for a while.

4. One book that made you laugh:

When Two or Three are Gathered … Someone Spills the Milk by Tom Mullen. Even funnier if you are the parent of several small children.

5. One book that made you cry:

Requiem for a Wren by Neville Shute. At the start of the book you find out that the main character is going to die. Yet I was crying so much I could barely read the last pages where she does actually die. At the time I think I related to her but now I don't think I would.

6. One book that you wish had been written:

Jesus : the first 30 years by Mary (Jesus' mother).

7. One book that you wish had never been written:

Beyond the Labyrinth by Gillian Rubinstein which won the Australian Children's Book of the Year for Older Readers. It is one of the most depressing books I've ever read. It is aimed at young teenagers and offers them no hope. I was appalled and I obviously haven't got over yet since that was in 1989! (John Marsden's Letters from Inside comes a close second for very similar reasons.)

8. One book you're currently reading:

Radical gratitude by Ellen Vaughn. I would like to become a more grateful person.

9. One book you've been meaning to read:

About twelve years ago someone recommended I read, John Stott's Issues Facing Christians Today so I bought it but never got around to reading it. Seems a little late now as I don't suppose the issues are still relevant.

10. Now tag 5 people:

I don't like to tag people without asking so I will let you know on this one.

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Life is an adventure

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" Jeremiah 29:11

Sometimes we read this verse and think that God's plans are like a street plan or an architect's building plan which are very rigid. Yet our lives often seem like a series of unconnected hotchpotch events that bares no resemblance to a plan and we begin to think we must have somehow missed God.

However in Psalm 32:8-9 God tells us, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go … Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you." Here we see that God's plans are not set in concrete. We do have understanding and God expects us to use it. We are not mere pawns that God moves around on a chess board.

We need to see our lives as an adventure story rather than a building plan. An adventure where anything could happen; an adventure that fills us with an expectation of what God might do; an adventure where we may need to take risks; an adventure where we may have to live with ambiguity and insecurity; an adventure where we don't always know how things are going to turn out. Yet an adventure where God is always in control, instructing us and teaching us as He seeks to guide us in His purposes.

One of the songs we are currently singing in our Sunday School program has as the chorus: "On our adventure anything could happen so it sure is good to know God is everywhere". It sure is.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Film Review: Keeping Mum (2005)

I find it slightly worrying when Hollywood keeps on telling us how to grow the church. "Keeping Mum" is just another example of how much Hollywood knows not only about the church but also about the Bible. There are some jokes in this film that the average cinema going person will not understand because they won't know the Bible well enough. I don't want to give the impression that this is a Christian film which it certainly is not as the language, especially in the first twenty minutes, clearly shows. But as long as you don't take the film too seriously (people being murdered etc.), it is riotously funny. Rowan Atkinson delivers a great sermon on God's mysterious ways which concludes with him saying, "God is mysterious – live with it!" and the problem of the flower roster is eventually solved. Well at least temporarily!

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

If I worship Thee for Thyself alone ...

" So Ish-Bosheth (Saul's son) gave orders and had her (Michal) taken away from her husband Paltiel son of Laish. Her husband, however, went with her, weeping behind her all the way to Bahurim." 2 Samuel 3:13

Perhaps Michal had reason to despise David after all (2 Samuel 6:16). Once Michal had been in love with David (1 Samuel 18:20) and Saul, Michal's father sought to take advantage of it. Saul was deeply jealous of David but he told David he could become his son-in-law if he killed a hundred Philistines. Though Saul was rather hoping that David would be killed in the conflict. When he wasn't Saul had no choice but to give Michal to David as his wife.

When Saul's jealousy turned to murderous intent towards David, Michal helped David to escape from her father. Then in David's absence Saul gave Michal in marriage to Paltiel, since Saul had never wanted David as a son-in-law.

Some time later, after Saul's death, David demanded that Michal be given back to him. But it seems more of a political move to again have an alliance with Saul's house, beside which David already had six other wives (2 Samuel 3:2-5). So Michal is forcibly taken from her husband.

Maybe Michal preferred being the wife of an ordinary person like Paltiel who obviously loved her with a great passion then to have the privilege of being one of King David's many wives. Since it seems that David only wanted Michal for her name and her connections whereas Paltiel wanted Michal because of love.

Do we want God so we can be part of His family and share His inheritance or do we want God because of love?

"Oh my God,
If I worship thee in desire for heaven, exclude me from heaven;
If I worship thee for fear of hell, burn me in hell.
But if I worship thee for thyself alone, then withhold not from me thine eternal beauty." Rabia c.800

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Book Reviews

I have now completed the task of writing book reviews for all of the books I've listed in my profile. As some of the books are now quite old I back dated some of the posts but you can get there my scrolling down and clicking on the link in the book review section. Since I read a lot of books it is difficult to decide which ones are just good books and which ones rate as my "favourites". I think the ones that qualify as being "favourites" are ones that I have read more than once and/or I just can't bear to part with. (And yes, I do give away my old books.)

My next blogging project will be to post about my favourite films. I don't go to see 'serious' films yet it is surprising that even in comedies there are some ideas worth blogging about.

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Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Holy Wild

Another Mark Buchanan book that I really enjoyed was: The Holy Wild (Multnomah, 2005). Again this book has many stories. Some of the stories are about things that have happened to him, others are about people he knows. He also uses illustrations, often from movies which make the book enjoyable and easy to read.

Each chapter is mostly complete in itself so you can pick and choose what chapters you would like to read and in what order. My favourite story is the one he begins the book with about a female snake in their basement. They manage to remove her but not before she had laid eggs. Consequently Mark and his family kept finding baby snakes and they were never quite sure if they found them all. After this they never felt comfortable about sleeping in the basement, I mean, supposing there was still a baby snake, grown into an adult snake, lurking somewhere in the dark … So even on the hottest nights, they could never retreat to the coolness of the basement because they never quite trusted the bed. Of course, the bed had not changed it was still as sturdy and reliable as before. But now they were never quite sure whether they were safe from snakes. Mark goes on to say that often this is how we feel about God we are never quite sure if we can really trust Him, can we really put the full weight of our belief in Him? In a nutshell the book is about this issue, trusting in the character of God, rather than God's actions or inactions.

I also really enjoyed the way Mark tells the story of the Good Samaritan and manages to bring out aspects of the story that I had never seen before which is quite amazing considering the number of times I've read it.

Finally in another story Mark relates the tale of a women whose husband left her for another women after many years of apparently happy married life. She said this, "In the first year or so after he left, there were many things I thought of doing – selfish, sinful things. But you know what kept me from doing them? Thinking that one day I will stand before God in heaven and to explain to God why living for Him, by His strength wasn't enough."

A good read.

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Your God is too safe

It occurred to me that some of my favourite books (in my profile) haven't actually got their own post. So I thought I would start to rectify this by writing about one of my very favourite books, Your God is too safe by Mark Buchanan (Multnomah, 2002).

The title is a bit of a reminder of the J.B. Phillips book, "Your God is too small" where Phillips was expounding the idea that our view or perception of God was way too small. In this book Buchanan is saying our perception of God has become way too comfortable. We concentrate on all the comforting aspects of God's character and forget the aspects that we find confronting.

Mark begins the book by explaining how after he had been a Christian for a few years he got bored with Christianity. He was going through the outward routines of Christianity but there was no joy or life in it. The first part of the book looks at the things that cause this to happen.

The second part of the book looks at what the Christian life should be like when we live it like God intended. How to develop the practice of knowing that we are constantly in God's presence. How spiritual disciplines shouldn't make us weary but rather make us more alive and more joyful.

I really enjoy Mark Buchanan's books especially the way he uses stories to bring new insights to old truths.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Devotional Thought : John 5:39-40

"You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life." John 5:39-40.

I have recently read Don Miller's "Blue Like Jazz". I found his remarks about witnessing quite challenging but encouraging. "I hoped that love would work like a magnet, pulling people from the mire and toward healing. I knew this was the way God loved me. God had never withheld love to teach me a lesson … I could treat everybody as though they were my best friend … I loved the fact that it wasn't my responsibility to change somebody, that it was God's, that my part was just to communicate love and approval."

And isn't that what Jesus did? He communicated love and approval. Tax collectors and prostitutes readily saw it. The crowds too but not the Pharisees. Jesus was wanting to draw the Pharisees towards love and healing too but they would not come to Him. He reasoned with them, pleaded with them and shouted at them but it made no difference to most of them.

It never ceases to amazes me that God allows us so much freedom to choose. He allows people to reject His love and compassion even though it breaks His heart to do so.

Today our responsibility is to communicate love and approval and let God do the changing. People may not respond but that is their choice and God allows them to make it.

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Truth telling in the Bible

Further to my last post I was asked about my tough questions in relation to the Bible. Well, I have thought of another tough question – truth telling.

Most Christians are keen on telling the truth and I'm certainly not against it. But it is interesting to read some of the Biblical accounts. For example Rahab was "considered righteous for what she did" James 2:25 when she deliberately deceived the king's messengers. Tamar was held in high esteem for deceiving Judah (see Lost Women of the Bible). Even Jesus Himself when asked about Jairus' daughter said she was asleep when she was actually dead (Mark 5:39). I know that we spiritualize this and say that from God's perspective she was asleep but the people who heard Jesus understood Him to mean physical sleep. I was leading a Bible study some years ago and asked the group amongst other things, if Jesus lied. (Even then I wanted to ask the tough questions!) For some reason which I can't remember, I asked people to work in pairs and write down their answers. One group which I overheard said, "we'll just write 'no'; we don't have to give a reason". I didn't mind them answering 'no' but why weren't they prepared to discuss the tough question? What is the Biblical position on truth telling?

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Blue Like Jazz

Blue Like Jazz by Don Miller (Thomas Nelson, 2003) is a collection of remarkably honest autobiographical jottings about life and faith. It is always refreshing to read someone who is honest, who doesn't pretend to have all the answers but is prepared to let God be God in their life and see what happens as a result. I think I enjoyed his chapter on church the most. It is subtitled – how I go without getting angry. He eventually found a church community that he could love and though it is not perfect he is happy there. He has a formula for how to go to church without getting angry: Pray that God will show you a church filled with people who share your interests and values. Go to the church God shows you and don't hold grudges against other churches.

There were many quotes I could have included but I chose this one because he expresses something that I have often felt but didn't feel safe to put into words. I don't have any hippie friends but I have come across the "little unwritten social ethics"; though for me they weren't as obvious as "don't cuss and don't support the Democrats" but certainly "don't ask tough questions about the Bible".

Quote: (Miller wrote this prior to attending the church he now goes to) "I was even more amazed when I realized I preferred, in fact, the company of the hippies to the company of Christians. It isn't that I didn't love my Christian friends or that they didn't love me, it was just that there was something different about my hippie friends; something, I don't know, more real, more true. I realize that is a provocative statement, but I only felt I could be myself around them, and I could not be myself with my Christian friends. My Christian communities had always had little unwritten social ethics like don’t cuss and don't support Democrats and don't ask tough questions about the Bible." Pg. 210

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Sunday, July 02, 2006

I will become even more undignified ...

David said Michal, "… I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified that this …" 2 Samuel 6:21-22.

Michal was trying to "rain on David's parade", by making discouraging remarks about David's enthusiasm. She said to him, "How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!" But I love David's response. He is not put off nor does he accept her perception of the situation. David has made up his mind to celebrate before the Lord and now promises to celebrate with even more vigor and zest in the future.

David had good reason to celebrate. His reign as king of Israel had just begun and his first act was to bring the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem, after an absence of about 20 years. The Ark symbolized God's Presence and it served as the meeting-place between God and His people. David wanted this meeting-place to be easily accessible because he knew he needed God's help to be the shepherd of God's people that he was called to be (Psalm 78:70-72). Bringing the Ark to Jerusalem had entailed many difficulties and even loss of life. Now it was finally entering the city and David's joy knew no bounds.

Today we may find people trying to "rain on our parade", trying to dampen our enthusiasm and telling us not to be so full-on for God. Even suggesting we will "get over it" but lets us be like David and do the opposite, promising to celebrate with greater enthusiasm than ever before.

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