Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Finished Moving

We finished moving yesterday and are still surrounded by boxes - mostly full of books! At least all our stuff is in the one place. I am still having trouble with our internet connection which means I get to read some posts but don't get time to comment very much. Hopefully it won't be much longer before I'm fully online.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Book Review : Tough Sayings from a Tender Heart

I haven't been reading many books lately but I continue to read Every Day With Jesus (a daily devotional by Selwyn Hughes). The latest one called, Tough Sayings from a Tender Heart has been particularly enlightening. Hughes looks at ten tough sayings of Jesus that causes people to be shocked or offended. He explains what they meant to the first hearers and what they mean for us today.

1. "… unless you can eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you." John 6:53
2. "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:26
3. "… the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent take it by force." Matthew 11:12 NKJV
4. "But I am among you as one who serves." Luke 22:27
5. "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it." Luke 9:23-24
6. "So the last will be first, and the first will be last." Matthew 20:16
7. "Love your enemies." Matthew 5:44
8. Jesus' comments about Elijah and Elisha. Luke 4:24-30
9. Jesus' comments on piety and traditionalism. Mark 2:18-28; Luke 11:37-54; Mark 2:13-17; Mark 11:15-18
10. Jesus' comments about money. Luke 16:13-15; Luke 12:15-34

The sayings speak of Jesus' challenge to put Him first in our lives – above family, money, possessions and to extend compassion to foreigners, neighbours and enemies.

Matthew 22:37-39 (greatest commandment) pretty much sums it up.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Devotional thought : Isaiah 54:5

For your Maker is your husband – the Lord Almighty is his name – the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. Isaiah 54:5

Some people think Christians have made up the idea of God to explain things they don't understand or simply to believe in something beyond themselves. However if human beings were going to create a god they would have made him lenient, indulgent and benign. A god who would let them do whatever they wanted with few consequences. This is not the God we find in the Bible. Though he is rich in mercy and grace, we find consequences and we reap what we sow. Though he loves us greatly, He does not indulge our wimps or overlook our faults.

The truth is the God of the Bible is not what we want Him to be. The God we find in the Bible is more holy and righteous than we could ever have imagined. He is wiser and more insightful than we could comprehend. He is far too involved in our lives yet loves us more than we have ever experienced. How could we have made that up?

Sometimes though, we do find ourselves believing caricatures of God, clinging to distortions because they make up feel more comfortable. For example if life appears to be falling apart, it is easier to believe God is disinterested than to believe He is deeply concerned but seemingly doing nothing. It is easier to believe God is powerless in the face of suffering than to grapple with His apparent absences.

However God will not change to fit our ideas so we need a Biblically accurate picture of what God is really like. A picture that includes not only his mercy and love, but also His immense holiness and ultimate Sovereignty.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Glorieta 12 months on …

Glorieta Christian Writers Conference is happening as I write. I attended last year and I was thinking about how far I had progressed since then in my dream of having a book published. Not very far actually. Though I am about to have one of my book reviews published in a small circulation magazine. I have managed to put together some magazine articles which I'm about to submit. It took a long time to get my head around writing for magazines because I actually don't like reading magazine articles! I have asked someone to critique some of my work and I continue to write devotional articles and book reviews which means I am constantly practicing my writing skills. I've also read a lot about being published. So while it is not as much as I was hoping for, it is not all bad.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Devotional Thought : Proverbs 25:2

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings. Proverbs 25:2

Prior to reading The Language of God by Francis Collins I was very much a creationism but now I'm in a quandary. Collins argues very convincing for evolution and since I'm not a scientist it is difficult for me to know how strong his evidence really is.

Therefore I found one of his most telling arguments comes out of history rather than science. In 1633 Galileo was tried and placed under house arrest. His publications were banned all because he believed the world revolved around the sun. At the time the church believed that the sun revolved around the world and quoted the following Scriptures: Psalm 93:1 "The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved"; Psalm 104:5 "He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved" and Ecclesiastes 1:5 "The sun rises and the sets, and hurries back to where it rises". Only in 1992, 359 years after Galileo was tried, was an apology issued by the Pope. People came to believe the world revolved around the sun in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence and Francis Collins believes a similar thing will happen with evolution.

Francis Collins is a good spokesman. He has excellent credentials as a scientist. He can address issues from an evolutionary point of view and challenge the likes of Richard Dawkins for which I am grateful.

For myself, I think I need to be careful. I cannot speak categorically on things I know so little about. The Bible was never intended to be a science book and often uses poetry, word pictures and allegories to make a point. I do know that, "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1) I just don't know how He did it or how long He took!

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Book Review : The Air I Breathe

In his book, The Air I Breathe, (Multnomah, 2003) Louie Giglio discusses the worship that occurs in a church service and worship as a lifestyle. He explains why both are important. Sometimes the word, worship can be confusing since we use it to mean slightly different things. Giglio explains worship in a church service is mostly about our words while worship as a lifestyle is about our actions. It is crucial that our words and our actions concur. No point telling God how important He is to us if our lives don't show it. Giglio also points out everyone worships something or someone. Whatever we give our time, our money, our energy to is what we value and therefore what we worship. In concluding Giglio gives suggestions for drawing closer to God by focusing on his attributes, not just for fifteen minutes a day but as an on going attitude throughout each day. At the end of the book he includes questions that can be used in group discussion.

While this is only a short book, 120 pages, I found his thoughts on this subject very helpful to understanding more about worship.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Devotional Thought : Mark 13:18

More thoughts from Mark.

Pray that this will not take place in winter. Mark 13:18

This was part of Jesus' response to his disciples when they asked Him about the timing of future events. Regardless of whether this particular instruction was about the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70 or to an event still to take place, it is still an informative directive. Jesus didn't say pray this will not happen but rather pray that this won't take place in winter. In the context if one needed to flee the city it would be better if weather conditions were mild.

The verse indicates that our prayers do impact circumstances. While God is Sovereign and running the world according to His agenda, our prayers do have an effect. Our prayers can rearrange events to our advantage. The verse teaches us that God cares about every aspect of our problems even the weather. So even when bad things happen we can still pray that God will minimize the difficulties. We may wonder why Jesus didn't say pray God's people would be spared hardship. Suffering is not an easy thing to accept when we know God is powerful enough to prevent it. However God has something bigger in mind than for us to live trouble free lives. While a painless life would be wonderful it would not achieve all God's purposes for us.

In the long term God is making a new heaven and a new earth and then we will know, "no more death or mourning or crying or pain" Revelation 21:4. While we wait in anticipation of that time we remind ourselves that "what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" 2 Corinthians 4:18 and we pray for the best possible outcomes.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Book Review : Holy Discontent

Bill Hybels writes Holy Discontent(Zondervan, 2007) in his usual keen and eager way. While he makes a very good point that our God given callings often arise out of our frustrations with the status quo, I'm not convinced it is quite as simple as Bill would like to make it. It often takes years to figure out exact what our niche is in the Christian life. Years that are not wasted but used by God to build skills and abilities so we can accomplish the task God has for us. Sometimes it is not until we are retired or our children have left home that we realize what God has been building into our lives and therefore what we have to give. While Bill does touch on this point his enthusiasm to motivate people into their area of ministry at times strikes me as a bit premature. However he also makes a good point that exposing ourselves to a wide variety of opportunities can hasten the process of finding the particular ministry God wants us to be involved in. Overall though I did enjoy the book and Bill tells some good stories to illustrate his points.

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Saturday, October 06, 2007

40 years is a long time

I don't normally post about sport, especially football but I'm going to make an exception since Geelong, the team that I have been following for the last 42 years finally won the AFL (Australian Football League) premiership last Saturday. (The last time they won a premiership was in 1963. I wasn't living in Australia then, besides which I probably would have been too young to remember anyway!) In those 42 years that I have been following, Geelong lost five grand finals. One particular player played in four losing grand finals – how disappointing would that be! Anyway on Saturday his two sons were in the Geelong team so he experienced success at last, even if it was through his kids.

I can't think of anything particularly spiritual to say about this except I couldn't help but think of Moses wondering around the wilderness for 40 years – that's a long time.

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Devotional Thought : Mark 12:14 &17

A thought from Mark 12 which comes out of the study on Mark over at the The Bible Study Place

"Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" … Jesus said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." Mark 12:14 &17

The Pharisees were expecting a yes/no answer. Jesus however gives a principle and lets them work it out. This is often how God works. We would like a yes/no answer. Is it ok to watch this movie? Should I attend this event? Am I allowed to go out with this person? In these situations God rarely gives yes/no answers because He has already given us principles and He expects us to think through how to apply them.

The principles are found in verses like Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of the world; John 17:15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. God knows giving us a principle rather than a yes/no answer is bound to cause conflict because Christians are going to come to different conclusions as to what is acceptable behaviour. So why does God operate like this?

God doesn't want robots who obey orders without thinking. He wants friends (John 15:15) who will talk/pray/think things through with Him. Also more mature believers should be better equipped to handle situations where a new believer may struggle or fall into temptation. Therefore God may send one believer into a less than helpful atmosphere to be a witness whereas He may deter another believer from going to the exact same venue.

Consequently we can't insist other believers adhere to our conscience on these sorts of issues. We need to spend time talking/praying/thinking through what God is saying to us remembering it may be different to what He says to someone else (John 21:22).

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