Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday's lighter note

I love this story. It speaks to me about being gracious and protecting a person's dignity.

Irish writer Niall Sheridan flew to San Francisco and was met by friends who asked if it was true that he spoke fluent Gaelic. "When I pleaded guilty," said Sheridan, "they told me of a bartender in a waterfront pub who kept complaining that nobody spoke Gaelic around there except himself, and asked if I'd mind their taking me to meet him.

When we got to the pub, they sat me at a table and went to fetch the bartender. I could see that he was reluctant to come with them, but finally he took off his apron and followed them over to our table. He said, 'Good day to you,' in Gaelic, and I replied in kind and waited for him to carry on. He looked unhappy, and finally blurted out – in Gaelic – 'Our Father, who art in Heaven,' and looked at me beseechingly. Fortunately, I caught on, and replied – in Gaelic – 'Hallowed be thy name.'

He brightened up like a neon beer advertisement and said – in Gaelic – 'Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done,' and I said, in Gaelic, 'On earth as it is in Heaven.' We went through the whole prayer that way, and when it was done we shook hands and he went back to the bar. One of my friends said, 'By George, he really does speak it, doesn't he!' I said, 'Yes, indeed.' And when someone asked what we talked about, I said, 'Ah, it was sort of an ecclesiastical dialogue.'"

- Ed Zern in Field and Stream (Readers Digest)

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Book Review : How to be Idle

When I read the title, How to be Idle (Penguin, 2005), I thought the author, Tom Hodgkinson was joking. However I discovered that, despite some exaggerations, he was being quite serious. He has researched the history and evolution of organized work and found that prior to the Industrial Revolution people worked in a more haphazard fashion, on an 'as need' basis. The Industrial Revolution however, produced a much wider variety of consumer goods which in turn created a market for these goods, so people worked in order to buy commodities not just food. We went from the idea of working in order to eat; to the idea of eating in order to work. In the process we lost much 'idle' time.

Hodgkinson is not advocating idleness for its own sake. In his research the author found that many creative people were accused of indolence. It was often said a person was a genius in spite of their laziness whereas Hodgkinson feels they were a genius as a result of their apparent idleness because it gave them time to consider, reflect and contemplate.

Hodgkinson presents a thought provoking perspective on modern life, advocating shorter working hours, less pay, less consumerism and more leisure time.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Book Review : Praying the names of God

Ann Spangler has taken 26 names/titles of God to compile, Praying the names of God : a daily guide (Thornpike Press, 2005). The idea is to focus on one name per week. This means, of course, it takes 26 weeks to read the whole book. (Unfortunately as I borrowed the book from my local library this was not possible so I satisfied myself with one name per day.) Each chapter is devoted to a name and divided into daily segments. Monday provides material to understand the name, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday provide additional readings and prayers and Friday connects God's promises with the name. There are also further Bible readings for the weekend.

This book is not just a gold mine of devotional thoughts but a wealth of insight into the names and meanings of God's names and titles. Spangler has done much research into the context and history of each name and so her book is educational as well as inspirational. She has also included stories and testimonies that have enhanced the material.

I enjoyed Praying the Names of God and read most of it in the three weeks the library allowed. However, I suspect I would not have had the patience to read it over a 26 week period as suggested.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Devotional thought : Jeremiah 3:10

In spite of this, her unfaithful sister Judah did not return to me with all her heart, but only in pretense, declares the Lord. Jeremiah 3:10

Jeremiah began his ministry in the thirteenth year of King Josiah's reign. Josiah was a good king who was in power for 31 years and instituted some major reforms. He destroyed many idols and heathen altars. He repaired the temple and reinstated the Passover. Yet it was only about 20 years after Josiah that Judah was taken captive and exiled to Babylon because of its sinful ways.

It would appear that King Josiah's reforms only corrected Judah's outward behaviour but didn't touch their hearts. They followed the king's decrees and thought that would appease God. But God is not interested in an outward adherence to a set of rules, He is interested in a heart felt relationship that transforms our attitudes and motives.

In Babylon the exiles were a long way from the temple and without their outward forms of religion. If they wanted to worship and honour God in Babylon, it would have to be from the heart. Being exiled was God's severe mercy. He took away the outward trappings of their religion in the hope they would come to an inward faith.

Likewise we may wonder why God allows a ministry or some other Christian activity to stop even though it appears to be a good thing. Sometimes God has to strip away the externals in order to correct the internals.

In Jeremiah 29:13 we find the well known words, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:6) and is not impressed with mere outward appearances (Matthew 23:25). So let us seek God with all our heart.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Friday's lighter note

As part-owner of a floor-coverings shop, I often deal with customers and their problems. One woman called to complain that her carpet, installed less than a year before, was packing down in one section.

Since packing and matting are common in well-used areas such as halls and stairways, I asked, "Do you have high traffic in the area?"

"Well," she replied after a long pause, "the bus to the city goes by every thirty minutes."

- Roger Davis (Readers Digest)

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Book Review : Spoken from the heart

Spoken from the heart by Selwyn Hughes (CWR, 2005) is a collection of twelve sermons preached by Hughes during his extensive traveling ministry. These have been produced almost unchanged from the way they were preached.

Unlike other collections of sermons they have not been grouped together around a common theme but rather seem to have been compiled to deliberately include a wide variety of topics. These topics cover such things as evangelism, revival, heaven, Jesus' ministry and the love and compassion of God. Each chapter is complete in itself so can be read in random order. The sermons are straightforward and easy to read. Mostly they are structured around the idea of a sermon having three main points.

Also included is a CD of one of his sermons, "He's just a carpenter", which is also in the book. The CD is a good strategy because as you listen to the sermon you are getting accustom to Hughes' voice. It then becomes easy to imagine that you are listening to a sermon when you read the others. This is important because of the fact the sermons have been left the way they were preached which is different to how an essay would be structured.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Devotional thought : Luke 19:17

'Well done, my good servant!' his master replied. 'Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.' Luke 19:17

In this parable and a similar one in Matthew 25 we see when Jesus returns he rewards His faithful servants with authority and the extent of the authority is directly related to the servant's actions while on earth.

We find this thought of ruling elsewhere. "If we endure, we will also reign with him." (2 Timothy 2:12) In Revelation 5:10, "You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on earth."

In addition we find in Scripture phrases like 'richly rewarded' (Hebrews 10:35); 'great is your reward' (Luke 6:23); 'rewarded fully' (2 John 8) and also references to the receiving of crowns as a reward. Paul unashamedly encouraged his readers to go for the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). The idea of rewards and future blessings is a strong motivator for Paul.

Conversely the loss of reward is also mentioned, "the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames." (1 Corinthians 3:13-15)

However we are encouraged to be like Moses. "… he (Moses) refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward." (Hebrews 11:2

We also need to be looking ahead to our reward.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Friday's lighter note

Why can't the airline industry understand that people simply want an airport they can reach in five minutes, to board a plane that won't fly over anybody's house?

- Bill Vaughan (Readers Digest)

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Book Review : Driven by eternity

John Bevere in Driven by eternity : making your life count today and forever by John Bevere (Warner Faith, 2006) seeks to exhort Christians to take more seriously the Biblical teaching on judgment, since it is not only non-Christians that will be judged. Christians will also be called to account for how they spent their lives and what they did with the gifts and callings God placed in their lives. There will be great rewards but also serious losses. There is much comfort and assurance about the eternal destiny of a Christian in the Bible but there is also much that makes us feel uncomfortable when it comes to judgment.

Bevere uses a story about a mythical place called Affabel to teach about the Judgment Day, much like Jesus used parables. While the story is an effective teaching tool, I found it a little long winded. Particularly as he tells much of the story before he breaks for some instruction. Nevertheless through the story Bevere is able to effectively present his viewpoint.

Bevere draws on many Scriptural references to reinforce his views and is not distracted by pointless arguments about the timing of end time happenings.

A very challenging and thought provoking read.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Devotional thought : Ephesians 2:10

For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

You may have seen the poster that reads: God put me on earth to accomplish a certain number of things. Right now I am so far behind, I will live forever! There is a certain element of truth in the statement as this verse in Ephesians points out. God has planned for us certain tasks or good works which He expects us to do. These tasks were planned before we were even born.

As Jeremiah 1:5 tells us, "Before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." Paul writes in Galatians 1:15, "But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace." We also know from the stories of Joseph and Moses how God planned long in advance that they would be leaders of His people. Likewise it is true of us, God has a plan for our lives and certain things He wants us to accomplish.

Unfortunately the rest of the statement on the poster is not true. If we fail to complete these tasks we will not live forever on earth in order to somehow 'catch up'. So it is important to find out what God has called us to do and pursue it. The writer to the Hebrews encourages us to do this, "Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." Hebrews 12:1. This verse points out that we need our run our race and not someone else's. So let's continually seek God for His unique plan for our lives.

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Friday, March 02, 2007

Friday's lighter note

Little boy to pal: "Dad jogs. Mum does aerobics. I'm the only one awake after dinner."

- Bo Brown in The Wall Street Journal (Readers Digest)

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