Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Books by Neil Anderson

I've been doing a lot of writing lately and haven't read as much as usual. However I'm planning to do some book reviews on a couple of Neil Anderson's books. In a book meme I did a while ago I mentioned that his teaching had changed my life and the other day I noticed that I have never reviewed any of his books on this blog. So I figured it is about time I did.

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Songs that make me think : I am covered over

"I am covered over" is a song I sang back in the 70's, so it is very old. However it contains a great truth which I have been reminded of lately, that is God gives me His righteousness.

If anyone knows who wrote this song, please let me know.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Book Review : Every day deserves a chance

In this short book, Every day deserves a chance (Thomas Nelson, 2007) by Max Lucado, the author makes three main points. These are to saturate each day in God's grace; to entrust each day to God's oversight and to accept God's direction. It is a practical yet challenging message that each and every day we can look to God for His provision, guidance and direction. By focusing on the present day, we are less overwhelmed by future worries or past difficulties. It is easier to trust God for one day then for a week or a month. We can then trust God for tomorrow when it arrives. By taking this daily approach to life, we can string together a series of good days which become a good life.

Lucado concludes each chapter with what he calls, "Daylifters" which is a page of positive thoughts that can be quickly read and acted on. I enjoyed this book which is written in Lucado's easy to read manner with lots of personal interest stories. Many of these stories relate to incidents that were recently in the news giving an up to date feel to the book.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Devotional thought : Matthew 18:31

When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. Matthew 18:31

Forgiven people, forgive people. In this story that Jesus told, the servants saw their master forgive the enormous debt of their fellow servant so their expectation was that he would in turn forgive. When he did not "they were greatly distressed". We are forgiven people. We have been forgiven the enormous debt of our sin against a holy God. The expectation is that we will forgive others their smaller debts of sin against us.

Perhaps the servant in this story didn't realize that he had been forgiven. Maybe he was congratulating himself for having talked his way out of his debt or maybe he thought he still had to pay it back. Whatever the reason he didn't act like a forgiven person.

Zacchaeus acts like a forgiven man. He responds by wanting to reimburse all those he has cheated. The woman at the well acts like a forgiven woman. She wants to introduce the whole town to Jesus. Their actions indicate that forgiveness has changed them.

Perhaps we don't realize the enormity of the debt we have been forgiven. Compare to others our misdeeds don't seem that bad. However in the presence of a holy God Isaiah says, "Woe to me! …I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips …" (Isaiah 6:5). Likewise Peter says to Jesus, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!"(Luke 5:8)

Do we act like forgiven people? Do we respond with gratitude to the forgiveness offered to us? Do we still expect compensation from others for their sins against us?

May we always act like forgiven people who extend forgiveness to others.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Friday's lighter note

One evening after dinner, my five-year-old son Brian noticed his mother had gone out. I told him, "Mummy is at a Tupperware party." This satisfied him for only a moment. Puzzled, he asked, "What's a Tupperware party?"

I have always given my son honest answers, so I thought a simple explanation would be the best approach. "Well," I said, "at a Tupperware party, a bunch of people sit around and sell plastic bowls to each other."

Brian burst into laughter. "Come on, Dad," he said. "What is it really?"

- Kenneth Holmes (Readers Digest)

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Devotional thought : Acts 17:25

And he (God) is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. Acts 17:25

God does not need us. He is complete in Himself. He did not create us because He was lacking something or needed servants to do jobs for him. God did not create us in order to have someone to worship Him, serve Him or make Him happy. He is already happy. He is already fulfilled. He already has everything He needs. He created us out of His abundance not because of any shortfall.

However sometimes we act like we are the ones doing Him favors. We act like He needs us to perform some task for Him. We seem to credit ourselves with importance if feel we have done something for God. Whereas the truth is we are on the receiving end of his favors. It is a privilege that He chooses to use us to bring in His kingdom. Serving and worshipping God is good for us. His commands are designed to make us more like Jesus. In becoming more like Jesus He is more able to bless us.

As Wesley says, "Who can explore His strange design?" Why would God put Himself in a position of such vulnerability? Why take the risk of creating people who will cause pain and suffering for your own Son? Perhaps for the same reason we have children because although they are expensive and at times disappointing, they also bring us great joy when they voluntarily choose to love and bless us.

God can handle the pain we cause. He has great reservoirs of love for us. He can redeem all our mistakes and turn them into something good (Romans 8:28). He considered us worth the risk.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Book Review : Helena

Helena by Jo-anne Berthelsen (Ark House, 2006) is the story of a 20 year old music student whose family lived near Prague, shortly before World War II. Although a fictional account it is based on a true story and gives many insights into the personal difficulties faced by those whose countries were caught up in war. Historically it is enlightening to read how the political decisions and trials of the war impacted the daily lives of the Czech people, as well as the resulting problems after the war.

It is a very moving story as Helena meets and marries Stefan to have their lives forever disrupted by the war. I enjoyed the way music was weaved into the story to express deep feelings. I also found it encouraging to read of their faith in God despite the loss of family and friends. For Helena the losses went even deeper as she lost her career and her family's inheritance. The pain of these events is not whitewashed but dealt with in a realistic, though heart wrenching manner. While the book might contain a little too much description for my liking it is nevertheless a great story which provides hope for the future whatever we may be called to face.

Jo-anne Berthelsen has been a pastor with Australian Churches of Christ (which is different to US Churches of Christ). I wrote a longer book review for the Australian Christian which is the online subscription journal of Churches of Christ in Australia. They would like me to include a link which is here.

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Devotional thought : Job 36:16

He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction ... Job 36:16

Job's young friend, Elihu said this to Job and what an amazing piece of insight it is. Our response to distress is often to wonder if God has forgotten us. But the truth is the exact opposite. God is using our very distress to draw us into a deeper relationship with him.

A similar thought is expressed in Psalm 66:11-12, "You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance." God has an end result in mind, for us to be like Jesus. Here it is described as a place, 'a spacious place' or 'a place of abundance'. Unfortunately for us the way to that 'place' is often via distress or 'fire and water'. However God never asks us to go through anything that Jesus hasn't already experienced (Hebrews 4:15).

At such times instead of fighting against God's ways we need to listen more to His voice 'wooing us', knowing that it is out of love for us that He wants us to grow to be more like Him. We need to believe that whatever form our distress takes He is there with us and speaking to us through it.

In Job 42:10-17 we see Job in a spacious place free from the fear and dread of what might happen (Job 3:25) and having a far deeper understanding of God that ever before, even though he was already blameless and upright in God's sight (Job 1:8). Wherever we are with God, He always has something more for us so that we might be more like Jesus.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I like helium balloons

My son had some helium balloons at his 21st birthday and I took one home. When I was a kid we didn't have helium balloons so I'm making up for the loss! The first couple of days the balloon clung to the ceiling then as gravity began to take over it spent the next couple of days floating around the lounge room. Then one day I went into the lounge room and found it hovering at about one foot above the ground and I took this photo. A day or two later it couldn't muster any levity and acted like a normal balloon, but it was fun while it lasted.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Book Review : Bruchko

Bruchko by Bruce Olson (Creation House, 1993)

Soon after becoming a Christian Bruce Olson had a conviction that God wanted him to be a missionary. Initially he fought the idea but as time went on the conviction became even stronger and more specific, God wanted him in South America. Bruce was only 19 when he boarded a plane for Venezuela.

When Bruce first met an Indian tribe he learnt that they had rejected Christianity because they rejected Western culture. After many trials Bruce was accepted by a Motilone tribe of Indians who let him live with them and learn their language and customs. He also helped with some of their health issues. Bruce built a relationship with one of the younger men and eventually taught him about Jesus. This young man was then able to present the gospel to the rest of the tribe in a way they could relate to. The conversion of this tribe to Christianity and the changes it brought were truly astounding.

Bruce faced further challenges particularly from land settlers wanting to take the Indians land. Through it all though God has continued to work through Bruce and touch the lives of Indian tribes throughout South America.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Books About Missionaries

Last October when I was attending the Christian Writer's Conference, at Glorieta, New Mexico, US., one of the presenters spoke about the reluctance of publishers to produce books about missionaries. The presenter was quite sad about this but realized that publishers only print books that sell and missionaries stories don't sell. I felt quite sad too that these stories were not being published but then I thought, "Hey, wait a minute, I'm one of the people that don't buy/read missionaries' stories!" So I started thinking about why I don't buy or read these books.

Recently some friends gave me a book that "I must read" which was a missionary's story. I didn't want to read it and was again faced with this dilemma – why don't I want to read these stories? Out of loyalty to my friends I read the book but whilst reading it I was asking myself why I don't like reading these type of stories.

I came up with a few reasons but I think the most pertinent one is that these books tell me about God's deeds but don't tell me about God's ways. ("He made known His ways to Moses, His deeds to the people of Israel" Psalms 103:7.) I read these stories and understand that God has done amazing things but I don't really learn any more about the way God works. Generally speaking the missionary themselves don't write a lot about the way God has worked in their own lives or the things that God has specifically shown or taught them. This may be out of humility because they want to focus on what has happened or what God has done, however I find I don't connect or relate to the main character in the story and that is the missionary themselves. For me to read a book, and maybe this is selfish, but there has to be something in it for me. There has to be something I can learn about life or about God that applies to my life.

My next post will be about the book that I did read which is actually an amazing story.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Devotional thought : John 1:41-42

The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah" (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. John 1:41-42

Some years ago in America Mordecai Hamm agreed to be the speaker at a crusade. After three weeks he left town, discouraged because there had been just one convert, who was only 12 years old … however his name was Billy Graham. How time can give us a different perspective!

Likewise we hear more about Peter (Simon) than we do about Andrew, his brother that brought him to Jesus. Paul said, "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose … for we are God's fellow workers" (1 Corinthians 3:6-9).

When we only focus on the results of our ministry we are being short sighted. Instead we need to focus on being obedient to God's calling on our life and commit to doing it as effectively as we can. Isaiah may have been tempted to focus on the results after God called him to preach to His people (Isaiah 6:9-13) but God told him, in advance that people would not listen and the cities would lay in ruins because of their disobedience. Yet it was important in the larger scheme of God's purposes that these people were given an opportunity to repent. God chose Isaiah and he completed the task God gave him to do, even though he was not successful in bringing God's people to repentance.
We too, need to complete the tasks God has for us and leave the results to God.

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