Sunday, April 29, 2007

On a lighter note

I've been out of town at my youngest son's 21st birthday so I'm feeling decidedly old. Whilst there my other son reminded me of this story:

Lecturing his teenage son about the evils of staying out late and sleeping away the morning, a man warned him, "You will never amount to anything unless you turn over a new leaf. Remember that the early bird gets the worm."
"But Dad," argued the son, "wasn't the worm stupid getting up so early?"
"The worm hadn't been to bed," the father replied. "He was on his way home."
- A.H. Berzen (Reader's Digest)

Which reminds me that I was going to stay up and watch some of the World Cup Cricket Final but it was raining. I did wake up at 5:30am and considered getting up but decided against it. I'm really more of a worm than an early bird!

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Book Review : Beyond Jabez

In Beyond Jabez (Multnomah, 2005) Bruce Wilkinson has answered many of the objections that people raised in relation to his first book, The Prayer of Jabez and in doing so has explained his views in a much clearer way. He has drawn on more of the Bible that just the two verses in 1 Chronicles 4 that mention Jabez to expand his teaching on this subject. Wilkinson has employed many practical applications and examples. I also enjoyed the personal stories that Wilkinson included about his own life.

The book is in four parts, like his first book, which are the four parts of Jabez's prayer. These are: That you would bless me; that you would enlarge my territory; that your hand would be with me and that you would keep me from evil. Praying in the vein of Jabez's prayer is exposed as being deeply challenging. We are asking God to bless and enlarge our influence, which takes us out of our comfort zone for the benefit of His Kingdom. The prayer invites God to answer in any way he wishes. So if you are ready for a challenge I would recommend, Beyond Jabez.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Devotional thought : Ephesians 1:7-8

In him we have the redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.
Ephesians 1:7-8

God has provided everything we need for the forgiveness of sins and not just barely but lavishly. God doesn't do things by halves. His grace is available in abundance.

However we don't always sense it like this. Hebrews 4:16 states, "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." We can approach the throne of grace with confidence because we know that there is an abundance of grace available. But do we approach? Or do we struggle through on our own?

"So that we may receive …" Receiving requires a certain emptiness on our part. Emptiness is not a comfortable feeling and perhaps why our society so values busyness and activity. It places us in a vulnerable position, a place where we have to trust God. We need to trust God not just because we have been taught that God is good but because we know in our hearts that He is good and has our best interests in mind. We can trust in the character of God even when our circumstances seem to deny the goodness of God.

We are not always good receivers and are often better at receiving when it concerns the big issues in our lives. Things we know we can't handle on our own. But God is also interested in teaching us to be good receivers in the every day little things. "Give us each day our daily bread." Luke 11:3

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Friday's lighter note

Assisting the teacher in my son's primary-school classroom, I was reviewing papers handed in by the children. There were sentences that the children were to complete about their likes and dislikes.

One sentence was: "I like to read about ..." Several students wrote responses such as sharks, sport and UFOS. Then I got to my son's paper. He had written: "I like to read about one page."

-Nina Hoyt (Readers Digest)

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Book Review : The Ragamuffin Gospel

Brennan Manning first wrote "The Ragamuffin Gospel" (Multnomah, 2005) 15 years ago and yet the message remains relevant and current. Mostly Manning is writing about grace, God's wildly extravagant gift of grace to the undeserving, who he describes as "ragamuffins". There is nothing really new here except that Manning has expressed truth in another way, a unique way, a personal way. He writes with compassion against a backdrop of his own struggle with alcoholism. He looks at our struggle to accept God's love and grace; our unwillingness to acknowledge our inadequacies and our reluctance to extend grace to others. In the Gospels we find Jesus extending grace to those who have not even asked or repented, like the woman at the well and the woman caught in adultery. Yet having received forgiveness, their gratitude is profound and their lives are forever changed.

Manning is very well read and quotes widely from numerous books and articles which adds conviction to his writing. I found this to be an easy book to read and though I have read much about grace and even written about it myself, I still found new ways of thinking about God's amazing grace.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Pick the difference

I recently did a digital photography course. I have 'fixed' the second photo so there is now a small difference between these two photos of my car. You may need to enlarge the photo to see it.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Devotional thought : Luke 15:15

When he came to his senses, he said, "How many of my fathers' hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!" Luke 15:15

The younger son's motivation for going home was hunger, not repentance. The woman at the well didn't come for forgiveness she came for water and the woman caught in adultery didn't even come to Jesus voluntarily. However Jesus (or the Father) accepted them and showed them love before they even thought about repenting.

It seems that God is pleased when we just show up before we actually do anything. He is so keen to shower us with His love that He doesn't wait for our rehearsed lists of sins and perhaps with good reason. True repentance happens when we realize the extent to which our sins have hurt the one we love and the realization that we never want to hurt them again. It was not until after the people were "cut to the heart" that Peter said, "repent" (Acts 2:38). It is not until we have encountered the love of God in the depth of our heart that we can truly love Him in return and then we want to live differently.

How do we encounter God's love? By allowing God to pour his love into our hearts (Romans 5:3) and perhaps by making this Graham Kendrick song our prayer:
O Lord, your tenderness
Melting all my bitterness
O Lord, I receive your love
O Lord, your loveliness
Changing all my ugliness
O Lord, I receive your love

When we become recipients of the love which God has poured into our hearts we respond by leaving behind our past life with all its sin and we are changed, not by the threat of punishment, but by an overwhelming sense of gratitude.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Out of town

I'm going to be out of town for a few days as my daughter is getting married on Saturday. Will post again next week.

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Receiving from God

I was searching on Google for an image that would symbolize receiving from God. I couldn't find anything I thought was suitable so I took my own photo.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Book Review : From Me to You

Technically this book, From me to you : the reluctant writer's guide to powerful, personal messages by JacLynn Morris and Paul Fair (Writer's Digest, 2000), explains how to write personal messages, yet it was the most emotional book I have ever read. The book contains many examples of messages that have actually been sent which were deeply moving as people expressed their feelings towards their loved ones. Many of these messages were compiled during workshops that the authors ran and covered a wide variety of occasions such as birthdays, graduations, marriage, birth of a child and serious illness. There are also examples of messages sent to repair a relationship, reveal a secret and share family traditions.

The authors share five questions which as you answer in your message make it powerful and personal. These are the questions: What got me thinking about you? What are my positive feelings for you? What makes you special to me? What do I remember and treasure about our time together? And what do I want you to get from my message?

There are explanations, tips and further suggestions throughout the book making it a very helpful book and hopefully one that will encourage people to express their positive feelings more readily.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Devotional thought : Micah 6:8

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

I have been reading Titus lately and three times in Titus 3 Paul tells us to do what is good (v.1, 8 &13). However, doing good can sometimes be difficult to define. We can look at passages like this one in Micah or at the Ten Commandments but we won't find specifics on every issue. In Jesus' time the Pharisees tried to define, in minute detail, what constituted work so they could avoid working on the Sabbath. However by creating so many rules and regulations in order to keep the letter of the law, they ended up breaking the spirit of it.

It is not God's intention that we have detailed lists on what constitutes "doing good" but rather God wants to guide us by His Spirit. "And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees" Ezekiel 36:27. Perhaps this is why Paul also points out in Titus 3:9 "… avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless." Trying to define specific details of "doing good" becomes unprofitable and useless.

Rather we need to devote our efforts to becoming more sensitive to God's Spirit within us as it is He who will move us to doing good. This is a much more difficult task. We cannot simply copy someone else's understanding of doing good, as we all have different roles to fulfill in God's house (2 Timothy 2:20). It is an on-going challenge to grow in our relationship with God so we know specifically what He is saying to us.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Friday's lighter note

A lecturer in my economics course illustrated how malleable political figures are when pressured to please the public. "Someone once said that politicians are like cushions," he told us. "They bear the impression of the last person who sat on them."

- Cherie Bentley (Readers Digest)

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Book Review : The Intimate Mystery

The Intimate Mystery : creating strength and beauty in your marriage by Dan Allender and Tremper Longman III (InterVarsity Press, 2005) is a short book (about 100 pages) that restricts itself to three things about marriage, leaving, weaving and cleaving. In discussing leaving the authors talk about the importance of a new family unit beginning at marriage. There is a definite need for a separation, but not a severing, from the families of origin for each person.

I found the discussion on weaving to be the most interesting part of the book. Here they discuss how oneness and a sense of togetherness can be created through deliberate conversations and casual moments. They talk about the significance of sharing past histories and stories with each other and how this bonds the couple.

Thirdly they discussed cleaving which was about sex. They looked at sex from God's perspective and how God is not embarrassed to use sex as a picture of His covenant relationship with His people.

The book contained many great insights and helpful thoughts. However, I sometimes felt I was missing important points because the authors employed theoretical concepts and theological words to convey their ideas. It was disappointing that they couldn't have written more simply.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Devotional thought : Leviticus 25:4

But in the seventh year the land is to have a sabbath of rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. … The land is to have a year of rest. Whatever the land yields during the sabbath year will be food for you. Leviticus 25:4

Recently I have been reading about the effects the Industrial Revolution on work and leisure. Prior to the Industrial Revolution people worked in a more haphazard fashion, they worked as they had need. The Industrial Revolution 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 leisure time.

Surprisingly though God is very keen on rest. He instructed the Israelites to take a whole year off! As well as many festivals and celebrations where they were told not to work (Leviticus 23). However 2 Chronicles 36:21 suggests that these Sabbath rests were not taken.

Taking a rest is hard to do! We live in a culture that values work and activity and undervalues taking time to be renewed and refreshed. We also need to take time to be creative. Mark Buchanan in his book "The Holy Wild" writes, "Our creativity, at least in part, comes from resting in His creativity until it seeps in. It springs from prayer. Not the busy chatty prayer we often do … Not the clamoring man waking his neighbor, desperate for bread, but the suckled child curled up, satisfied in the mother's arms."

We need to take time to be the suckled child satisfied in our Father's arms.

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