Friday, September 29, 2006

My latest readings

I haven't read as many books lately as I have been busy preparing for my trip. I did skim through, "Publicize Your Book! : an insider's guide to getting your book the attention it deserves" by Jacqueline Deval (Berkley, 2003), which is one of many books recommended by conference speakers. From my brief perusal it seems to contain some good ideas for marketing books.

I've continued reading the devotional "Every Day With Jesus" by Selwyn Hughes and I found his comments for tomorrow very interesting. "Be careful that you throw yourself only into those things that God wants you to be involved in. Don't take up everything that comes along. I (Selwyn) was struck by this verse in Deuteronomy: 'Be careful not to sacrifice your burnt offerings anywhere you please. Offer them only at the place the Lord will choose' (Deuteronomy 12:13) … Get guidance from God, know your call and continue in it."

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Do you fear God for nothing?

After reading, "Furious Pursuit" and pondering the "Larger Story", I found myself thinking about the first couple of chapters of Job. Here's what I wrote:

"The Lord said to Satan, 'Where have you come from?' Satan answered the Lord, 'From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.'" Job 1:7

I find the first two chapters of Job very intriguing. The idea of God and Satan having a conversation seems somewhat bizarre and surely God knew where Satan had been anyway.

When we think about this conversation along with Ephesians 3:10, "His (God's) intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms", we begin to realize that there is a lot more going on in the heavenly realms than we know. God wants to display His manifold wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. It seems there has always been a whole drama being played out in the heavenlies that is hidden from us. It is certainly not about us, yet somehow we are an immensely important part of it.

Satan challenges God with the question, "Does Job fear God for nothing?" (Job 1:9) Satan is suggesting Job only honours the Lord for the blessing and protection God provides. So God allows Satan to test Job. Ultimately Job continues to trust God despite his many questions and complaints and God rewards Job with double his previous blessings.

Amongst other things, I think the story of Job tells us that the question, "does Job fear God for nothing" is deeply significant. The question now falls to us. Do I only honour God for what I get out of it, blessings, protection and eternal life? Or do I honour God for no other reason than He is God?

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Furious Pursuit

I found this book by Tim King and Frank Martin (WaterBrook Press, 2006) to be very encouraging and uplifting. For some time I have understood God's furious pursuit. On reflection I'm not sure how and when I learnt this truth. I remember reading Francis Thompson's poem, "The Hound of Heaven" some years ago. Thompson describes God as the "Hound of Heaven", the God who desires, pursues and actively seeks us out. He describes how he fled from God, "down the nights and down the days" ... "down the arches of the years" and ... "down the labyrinthine ways of my own mind." Then he describes God pursuing him with these words, "But with unhurrying chase, and unperturbed pace, deliberate speed, majestic instancy". The image it presents of God's pursuit of us is very powerful.

Getting back to "Furious Pursuit". It was good have the truth of God's unfailing love reinforced. I particularly enjoyed to authors' understanding of Jesus washing the disciples' feet. God's love is truly amazing.

It was also good to be reminded that life is not about us. In the busyness of life with many responsibilities clamouring for our attention it is easy to forget this. "Furious Pursuit" reminds us there is a far "Larger Story" going on and God allows us to play an important part in it.

A good read.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Laughing at the days to come

"The One enthroned in heaven laughs" Psalm 2:4.

In the sporting arena no one laughs at their opponent. From time to time a team or an individual may take an opponent too lightly. In which case they may be taken by surprise and lose the match but serious sports people don't laugh at an opponent.

But God is never taken by surprise. Consequently He can laugh at those who would oppose Him. "The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for He knows their day is coming" Psalm 37:13. God "knows their day is coming." He knows what will happen in the future. God has the devil on a limited time frame. The devil can do nothing that God doesn't allow. Therefore God can laugh at the wicked's feeble attempts to thwart God's purposes.

Of course, our perspective is so small in comparison. When we look at the world, we don’t see God's ultimate control. Often we see evil apparently winning. We wonder why God doesn't intervene and prevent hardship and suffering. At such times we need to trust in God's character and rely on His goodness, believing that one day at the end of time He will be able to say to us, "Look I can explain everything."

In the meantime if we remind ourselves of God all-powerfulness, we can be like the Proverbs 31 woman of whom it is said: "She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come" Proverbs 31:25. She can laugh at the days to come because she knows God is in control.

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

From little things big things grow

Today at church I was up front explaining what a blog was! How bizarre is that!

The reason this came about was because the church recently appointed someone to oversee the Bible study groups, with the idea of starting more groups. He was approached by someone who could not physically attend a group but wanted to be involved. So conversations began about running a "real time" group via the internet. It soon became clear that finding a regular "time" was going to be impossible because of people's work commitments. The next option was to run a Bible study blog and I was asked to set it up. We are going to be running a study on the blog using a study book so while we are waiting for the books to be distributed we are running a discussion topic as a trial run. The person overseeing the groups was suppose to get up this morning at church to speak/promote the idea but guess what? He was sick! So since I had set it up and knew about blogs I was asked to speak … all because a little over a year ago Trav suggested I get a blog. I had no idea where it was going to lead.

I find this very amazing!

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Friday, September 15, 2006

It seemed good ...

"It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us … " Acts 15:28

Recently our Bible study group discussed this verse. In other places in Acts when the disciples needed guidance they often received visions and direct instructions from the Lord (Acts 9:10; 10:9-16; 16:9). But here all we have is "it seemed good". There is no indication they expected or sought a vision. Sometimes we would like God's guidance to be demonstrative, like a vision or a specific "word" yet sometimes we find all we have is "it seems good".

Yet God had not left them or us without direction. In this case both Peter and Paul reported how God had been working in the lives of the Gentiles (15:6-12). James quoted from the Old Testament in reference to the Gentiles (15:17). The decision they came to was not just a "feeling" but it was based on the way God had already been leading them.

In my own life I have found when seeking God's direction it is a good idea to look back and see how God has already been working in my life. What area has God been encouraging me in? What Bible verses have stood out to me lately? What songs have spoken to me? I find that God rarely does things spontaneously usually He has prepared my heart well in advance.

The time then comes to make a decision. To step out in faith, believing that God is guiding and to trust Him with the outcome. Generally we can expect to have a sense of peace about such a decision because it fits so well with what He has already told us. Nevertheless it can still be daunting so it is good to remember that God is always with us to see us through.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Two Weeks Notice (2002)

The last of my favourite films. After this I'm going back to books! (By the way if you buy this movie on DVD one of the deleted scenes is where they get married. I don't know why they deleted this scene because it is rather amusing, unless it is because of her wedding dress which is completely awful!)

Lucy Kelson, (Sandra Bullock), has been brought up to believe that she can change the world. She is a lawyer trying to preserve historic sites when she meets George Wade (Hugh Grant). George is the "face" of the Wade Corporation. A company whose business involves tearing down historic structures to develop new buildings. Lucy goes to work for the Wade Corporation on the premise that she will be able to make a real difference and save historic sites. Yet in the end it is Lucy that says, "I can change".

So often we think it is the other person who needs to change when in reality we are the one who needs to change.

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Glorieta Christian Writer's Conference

I have decided to attend the Glorieta Christian Writer's Conference. Considering that I live near Melbourne (AUS) and the Conference is near Albuquerque (USA) this is quite a monumental decision!

It has been on my mind for quite some time that I would like to attend a Christian writer's conference but there are limited opportunities to attend this sort of conference in Australia. I have also been feeling for some time that I need to take my writing more seriously than I did a couple of years ago.

Fortunately I have friends here who have lived in the US and they have been very helpful and encouraging. The conference starts on 11th October and finishes on 15th October. I am coming a few days early, seemed a shame to go all that way and not do something of the tourist thing so I'm planning to see the Grand Canyon. I booked my ticket last week and my passport arrived on Friday so it's all happening!

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Friday, September 08, 2006

Are you surprised?

"Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And as if this were not enough in your sight, O Sovereign Lord, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant. Is this your usual way of dealing with man, O Sovereign Lord?" 2 Samuel 7:18-19

I love this prayer of David as he responses to Nathan's report from God. David is amazed that God would bless him like this.

David never forgot where he came from. He had not been in line to become king, he had not even been the eldest son, yet God had taken him from looking after sheep to being king of His people. David knew this had happen only because God guided him, strengthen him and kept him safe from Saul. David also understood the Lord is Sovereign. Three times in this short passage he uses this term. Sovereign means ruler, that is, the One in charge.

I recently read this quote, "True gratitude registers surprise that God could be so good to us." David's response is one of surprise – "is this your usual way of dealing with man?"

Are we surprised?

Have we considered where we have come from? Do we understand who God is and what He has done for us? "Once you were not a people, but now you are people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy" (1 Peter 2:10). God has made many promises to us. He has guided, strengthened and protected us. He has spoken to us about a future home with Him. We deserve none of this yet God has chosen to lavish us with His many blessings.

God is immeasurably good to us. We ought to be surprised.

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Kate & Leopold (2001)

While not a fan of movies that use the idea of time travel, I think this movie does it rather well. Leopold, Hugh Jackman, is transported from the 19th century to the 21th century and we are given a look of 21th century life through the eyes of someone who views life from a different time frame. Leopold's perspective is very different to that of someone say, visiting from another country or culture because coming from another time frame means that 200 years ago life was once like he understands it to be.

The major theme of the movie is that we are too busy to savour the moment. Paul tells Timothy that God "richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment" 1 Timothy 6:17. As Leopold rightly points out: "Life is not solely comprised of tasks, but tastes." We need to take some time and enjoy those things that God has provided for our enjoyment.

I also like the difficulties Leopold has with the toaster. I've always have problems with toasters!

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Monday, September 04, 2006

In the grip of grace

Max Lucado is the author of this book called In the grip of grace(Thomas Nelson, 1996). There are two stories in this book that really stand out for me. Firstly the account of the baseball strike in 1995 where the owners, determined to start the season, threw open the opportunity to almost anyone who knew how to play. He writes about how happy these guys were to be playing and how afterwards they went around thanking everyone. Then he draws a spiritual parallel.

"They were just happy to be on the team. Shouldn't we be, as well? Aren't we a lot like these players? If the first four chapters of Romans tell us anything, they tell us we are living a life we don't deserve. We aren't good enough to get picked, but look at us, suited up and ready to play! We aren't skilful enough to make the community softball league, but our names are on the greatest roster of history! Do we deserve to be here? No. But would we trade the privilege? Not for the world. God's grace has placed us on a dream team beyond imagination."

The second story that impacted me was in the chapter called, Life Aboard the Fellow-ship. He compares the various Christian groups to life on a ship. Not a cruise ship, a battleship. Aboard the ship "each of us has a different task. Some, concerned with those who are drowning, are snatching people from the water. Others are occupied with the enemy, so they man the cannons of prayer and worship. Still others devote themselves to the crew, feeding and training the crew members." And so he goes on making spiritual parallels between life aboard a ship and the different emphasis we place on the different aspects of our faith. His point is that we need to accept one another despite our differences and keep the unity of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:3).

Max Lucado is easy to read and conveys his points well. A good read.

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Friday, September 01, 2006

Rhetorical questions

"After three days they found him (Jesus at 12 years) in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions." Luke 2:46

This liking of asking questions seems to be a pattern of Jesus ministry. Here is a small selection of questions that Jesus asked from Luke. It is interesting to note that many of the questions are rhetorical, designed to make people think about deeper issues.

Why do you call me, Lord, and do not do what I say? 6:46 Where is your faith? 8:25 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? 9:25 Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 11:11 How it is that you don't know how to interpret this present time? 12:56 Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not? 14:3 Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 17:17 Why do you call me good? 18:19 Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss? 22:48

It is also interesting to note that Jesus never felt obligated to answer a question. Sometimes he simply answered with a question. For example the elders asked him, "Tell us by what authority you are doing these things … who gave you this authority? (Jesus) I will also ask you a question. Tell me, John's baptism – was it from heaven, or from men? 20:2-4. In addition Jesus often told a story like the Good Samaritan to answer a question.

If we are to follow the example that Jesus left us we also need to learn to use questions effectively. Not necessarily giving people the answers but whetting their appetite and encouraging them to delve deeper.

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