Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Devotional thought : Ephesians 1:5

In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ in accordance with his pleasure and will. Ephesians 1:5

In the Old Testament we find that God predestined the Israelites to be his people. "Out of all the nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites" Exodus 19:5-6. However it was not enough to be chosen. They still had to exercise faith in God to be made righteous.

Paul writes in Galatians 3:8 "The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: All nations will be blessed through you." So although the Israelites were chosen to be God's people it was God's intention to bless all nations through them. They were to be his witness and his instrument of blessing. We see this often in the Old Testament. Ruth and Rahab were not Israelites but came to be included with God's people; Jonah is sent to Nineveh and other prophets are sent to Egypt and Edom. Being predestined was never meant to exclude others.

In the New Testament the church is now God's chosen people. "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God" (1 Peter 2:9). God has predestined the church and likewise it is God's intention to bless all people through the church. The church is God's body in the world to reach out to all people. Being predestined still doesn't mean excluding others. Rather it should motivate us to fulfill God's intention of the church being his witness and his instrument of blessing to the world.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Back home

I've been on a 'working holiday' to my favourite place in the state and while I did have internet access it wasn't quite as convenient as being at home. This is one of many photos I took. The snow is a little difficult to see but it is there.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Quotes from God's Unfolding Purpose

I plan to write a book review about a very old book I've been reading called: God's unfolding purpose : a guide to the study of the Bible by Suzanne de Dietrich (Westminster Press, 1957) but for now I'll just post a few bits that I found interesting.

This divine sovereignty, seen from our human perspective, has two aspects – one of wrath, and one of mercy. Only in eternity will we fully understand that these two aspects are actually only one, and that God's justice is simply one aspect of his love. pg. 112

It is enough for us to know that he (Jesus) consented to this last and ultimate humiliation, and as a result we feel ourselves bound to this church of his, no matter how wretched or disappointing it may be. (And who of us has not been disappointed or led astray by the deficiencies, the narrowness, and the divisions of the visible church?) pg. 205

The entire Biblical revelation affirms that salvation is by grace. … But this revelation is so utterly contrary to the natural heart of man that it must be emphasized again and again, for man always keeps trying to achieve salvation on his own resources. Nothing is so humiliating to his pride as to owe everything to the grace of God alone, and to be able to live only on the basis of his pardon. pg 232

The amazing mystery of the divine wisdom, as we have seen several times already, is that God's plan of salvation is always unfolded by means of feeble instruments – through the poverty of words, through the dense veil of the flesh, and the stammering witness of a faithless people. God wanted it this way! He desires that his power be made known through weakness. He placed the torch of faith in our weak human hands, to make it quite evident to everyone that salvation does not come from us, but from him. This body, the church – divided, stained, bruised, responsible through the course of twenty centuries for many crimes – is nevertheless his body, the body of the Lord in glory, the body for whose life he let himself be crucified. Who, therefore, knowing that, will dare to repudiate the church or to separate himself form it? For this sick and bruised church is also the glorious and triumphant church that will reign with him in eternity! pg 249

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Devotional Thought : Mark 1:45

This thought was prompted by some of Wendy's comments during the discussion at the Bible Study Place on Mark 1& 2. Thanks Wendy.

Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere. Mark 1:45

This verse refers to the leper that Jesus healed. Jesus had sent him away "with a strong warning: See that you don’t tell this to anyone." However the healed leper "went out and talked freely". His disobedience caused Jesus to change his plans, he could no longer enter a town openly. In v.45 the word "yet" suggests ultimately though God's plans were not thwarted (Job 42:2).

It reminds of a story I heard of a pastor's daughter who became a drug addict. Years later she became a Christian and became involved in a ministry to drug addicts. Her father made the comment it was never God's intention for her to become a drug addict but having chosen that path God was still able to use her wrong choices to bring hope and healing to others.

Earlier in the same chapter Jesus had commanded demons to be quiet (v.25 & 34) and they obeyed him so it interesting that demons had to obey Jesus but the leper did not. God has given humans a free will so we can obey/disobey him whereas the demons do not have the same choices.

This incident speaks to me of the Sovereignty of God. He is in charge. He commands demons but gives man a choice yet even in that He is powerful enough to override the results of our disobedience and bring about His purposes anyway. This is not a licence to be disobedient (Jude 1:4) but rather an encouragement to know we cannot derail God's plans.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Book Review : The Gumtree Pulpit

Geoffrey Johnstone can tell a good story and his self-published book, The Gumtree Pulpit, is an easy to read group of stories. His laid-back style and uncomplicated faith make his stories straightforward, interesting and often humorous. They have a subtle point to them which he connects to themes in the book of Romans. I would have liked a bit more depth and application of these points but nevertheless he does seek to show this in the introductions to the stories, which are letters addressed to his daughter Cara. This is a novel way of introducing his thoughts.

The overall tone of the book is upbeat and positive. He sees the God of the Bible as a God of love and grace. I particularly liked his chapter on forgiveness. God's grace is so extravagant the forgiven person is better off than before they sinned. God not only forgives us but he restores us and we are forever changed. "The story of mankind starts in a garden but ends in a celestial city. He is not just saved but is promised a state of glory."

I found the book hopeful and encouraging.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Devotional thought : Hebrews 12:7

Endure hardship as discipline … Hebrews 12:7

Hardships come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, from minor annoyances – car breakdowns, uncooperative bosses and inclement weather to huge Job-like disasters. Often we think of hardship as something to be avoided at all costs and something to pray against. However this is not how God sees hardship.

God allows hardships to come across our paths as a discipline. In v.11 God freely admits that, "no discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful." Yet we are told to look to the results, "a harvest of righteousness and peace" but only to those "who have been trained by it." Hardships give us the opportunity to learn, to grow and change but if we resist the discipline we miss the training and the rewards.

The writer to Hebrews is not telling the readers anything new here. Deuteronomy 8:5 states, "Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you." This is not a happy thought we don't relish the idea of discipline or the idea of being treated like a child in need of discipline.

However we are also told God only disciplines those he loves (v.6). Therefore we need to consider the big picture of God's purposes, he only allows those hardships which will be of long term benefit to us. "God does not waste suffering, nor does he discipline out of caprice (unaccountable change of mind). If He ploughs, it is because He purposes a crop." (J. Oswald Sanders, from the foreword of Green Leaf in Drought).

Remembering long term gain in times of hardship is not easy as our emotions want instant answers and instant relief but we can trust in God's character and rely on His goodness.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Away from home

I'm going to be away from my home base for two weeks but I have been led to believe I will have internet access!

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Book Review : Faith & Duty

(John Anderson was the leader of the Australian National Party and Deputy Prime Minister for many years until 2005.)

My initial impression as I started to read Faith & Duty : the John Anderson story by Paul Gallagher (Random House, 2006) was how often tragedy had struck John Anderson's life. His mother died of cancer when he was three, his sister died during a backyard cricket match when John accidentally hit her with a cricket ball, and he lost his youngest son at six months through major health problems. John's father's life was equally tragic losing a wife and a daughter. He also suffered from war injuries, physically and emotionally.

Nevertheless this is not a sad book but rather the genuine account of a man's life. John is portrayed as a man of integrity and faith. A faith that was born as a result of his sister's death and carried him through the many trails of political life. I must admit to skimming over some of the political issues in the book due to my general lack of interest in politics however I still found it interesting to read about people who have made up parliament.

Paul Gallagher writes in an easy to read manner and tells John Anderson's story with truth and compassion.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Devotional thought : Hebrews 12:22

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly. Hebrews 12:22

This verse is in stark contrast to the preceding verses where scenes about God giving Moses the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai are described in a terrifying way. These types of passages cause some to conclude that God in the OT is harsh and severe while God in the NT is full of mercy and compassion.

However even in the OT God is full of mercy and compassion. The law and punishments God outlined to Moses seem severe and harsh because we underestimate God's holiness. God's people need to know he is holy and just. Every sin is worthy of the death penalty (Ezekiel 18:4 & 20). Any time someone didn't die because of their sin they were being shown mercy. Punishments were generally not carried out to their full extent (eg. David and Bathsheba should have been stoned) because God kept on showing mercy. God was also looking forward to the day when Jesus would take upon himself the entire penalty for sin.

When someone experienced God's punishment like the sudden deaths of Uzzah, Nadab, Abihu, Ananias and Sapphira, we are surprised because we take God's mercy for granted. Yet these incidents serve as reminders that every sin is worthy of the death penalty. They are reminders of how much mercy we receive. There are many examples of God's mercy throughout the OT. Countless times God warned his people before he reluctantly sent them into exile; God forgave Nineveh much to Jonah's displeasure (Jonah 4:2); Ruth was included in God's people even though she was a Moabite (Deuteronomy 23:3).

God doesn't change. He is still merciful and compassionate.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

I have a dream ...

Like most writers I have a dream of being published. But these days if you want to be published you must do more than just write, you must also advertise and so … drum roll please … I have launched my own web site:

I completed a (2.5 hours x 8 eight weeks) web design course a couple of weeks ago and after a lot of work and much tweaking, I uploaded the site. I have moved many of my devotional thoughts and book reviews from my blog to the web site, though my most recent ones are still on my blog. I have also upgraded my blog.

Like many writers I am also an introvert and don't readily volunteer personal information so having a web site is moving right out of my comfort zone. I hope you visit the web site and let me know what you think. Please also tell me if you find any 'typos' or anything that doesn't work or is unclear.

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Upgrading template

This weekend I will be upgrading my blog template and making a few other changes. Hopefully this will not be too stressful though I don't find it very encouraging when Blogger says:
you will lose many of the changes you previously made to your template.

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Book Review : Green Leaf in Drought

A couple of months ago I wrote about my reluctance to read books about missionaries. The other day I came across Green Leaf in Drought by Isobel Kuhn which I read 25-30 years ago. I remembered this book had greatly impacted me at the time so I decided to read it again to figure out why this missionary book had this effect on me whereas others don't.

Isobel Kuhn has written Green Leaf in Drought (OMF, 1986) from material supplied by Arthur and Wilda Mathews who were missionaries in China in 1950 when the communists assumed power. Right from the outset Isobel has used Scripture passages to enrich the story. The title of the book comes from Jeremiah 17:8 – He shall be as a tree planted by the waters … but her leaf shall be green … in the year of drought… Kuhn employs this verse throughout the book by using the word "drought" to indicate the drying up of the physical resources of the Mathews and the word "green" to indicate their attitude to these deprivations.

Kuhn quotes from the letters Arthur and Wilda wrote during this time and from this we get insights into their thoughts, their prayers and their general state of mind. It is thrilling to see the many different ways God spoke to them and taught them spiritual truths in a very difficult situation. Kuhn's conclusion is enlightening as she looks at God's deeper purposes for this couple's suffering.

Though my situation is vastly different to the Mathews, I could relate to the book because it focused on God.

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Devotional thought : Hebrews 11:7

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. Hebrews 11:7

Noah's faith condemned the world because they had the same opportunity as Noah but did not act upon it. Noah did not set out to condemn the world but rather it was the necessary outcome. By building an ark he expressed faith in God and exposed the lies of the world. Lies like, "it is too hard to live by faith", "it is too hard to do what God asks" or "God doesn't care whether I live by faith or not". When one man, like Noah, lived by faith it left the rest of the world without excuse.

"For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life." (2 Corinthians 2:15-16) When we live by faith we are the "aroma of Christ" and that means to some people we will be the "smell of death". To the world that Noah lived in, he was the "smell of death". As we live out our faith others will be convicted because we will inadvertently expose the lies they currently believe about God.

On the other hand we will be the "fragrance of life" to other Christians. We will affirm their faith and be an encouragement to them, often without a word. Knowing someone else is pressing on in their Christian walk is deeply encouraging, especially when we see them growing and changing.

Let's live by faith and be the "aroma of Christ" to those around us.

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