Monday, February 25, 2008

Out of town ...

My father-in-law passed away last night so I'm going to be away for a few days attending the funeral.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Devotional Thought : 1 Thessalonians 1:3

We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 1:3

These three qualities faith, love and hope are also mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13:13 "Now these three remain: faith, hope and love". These three qualities remain after prophesies have ceased, tongues have been stilled and knowledge has passed. It is important to remember that in the final analysis it is not our work or our labor or our endurance that will remain but rather faith, hope and love.

Work, labor and endurance become a wearisome duty when we act out of a sense of obligation. When we feel we have to do something because it is the "right thing" to do or the "Christian thing" to do. It is not God's intention that obligation be our motivation. Rather He wants us to engage in work because we have faith in His plans and purposes. God wants us to labor because we have been prompted by His love in our hearts for other people. God wants us to endure because we are inspired by hope knowing that God has prepared a wonderful future for those who are His.

From time to time we need to check our motivation. Am I being motivate by faith, love and hope? Or do I have lesser motives of wanting to appear more committed than others, or impressing others with my perceived spirituality, or simply caving into peer pressure? It is important that we get our motivation right otherwise our efforts will be in vain and shown for what they really are (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).

In Thessalonica faith produced work, love prompted labor and hope inspired endurance, may it be true for us too.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I read this today ...

What our Lord seeks to lead us into is a passionate relationship with Himself. God does not want robotic obedience, but passionate engagement.

Every Day with Jesus (from the 19th Feb.) by Selwyn Hughes

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Devotional Thought : Acts 16:9-10

During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia. Acts 16:9-10

Paul had plans to go to Asia but God changed his plans. So Paul travels to Macedonia instead and spends time in three towns: Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea. Paul was forced to leave all three towns. In Philippi Paul and Silas were thrown into jail; in Thessalonica there was a riot and in Berea Paul hurried away to avoid more trouble.

We tend to expect if God sends us on a mission it will be successful. We don't expect to be driven out of town. I wonder if Paul ever doubted his guidance, saying, "Did God really send me to Macedonia?"

However there were many positives. Lydia responded to God and a church was started in Philippi. A slave girl was released from the devil's power. A jailer and his family were saved and baptized. In Thessalonica, some Jews were persuaded that Jesus was the Christ as did a large number of Greeks and some prominent women. The Bereans came to study the Scriptures with great eagerness, and again many Jews believed as did many Greeks. Paul's work in Macedonia had far reaching effects and today we have the blessings of Paul's letters to the Philippians and the Thessalonians.

We don't always see the fruit of our efforts at the time. Sometimes God sends us into troubled situations and we may be forced to leave before we've finished the job. Yet God's purposes are not thwarted. We need to remember His spirit continues to work in the lives of people long after we have left the situation.

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

I read this today ...

Living comfortably with confusion and mystery is not easy. It erodes our sense of competence. We like to feel we are in control. We feel better when we know what is going on and we know what to expect. We like to have answers for everything mysterious because walking in the dark is disturbing. So any answer is better than none. Many people will accept glib explanations because it provides them with a way out of confusion; it provides something to hold on to. Since we don't like to be in the dark, we seek to replace confusion and mystery with understanding. Let's face it: few of us handle ambiguity well. This desperate desire to be in control makes us cling to the illusion that if we search hard enough we will find answers. We are unwilling to brave the fog of confusion, and fail to see that it is often in the midst of massive confusion that we have the opportunity to build the muscles of faith and trust. The truth is God has not chosen to answer every question.

Every Day with Jesus (from the 10th Feb.) by Selwyn Hughes

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Overcoming inertia

I visited a lighthouse a while ago. The man explained it was better to leave the light on all the time rather than turning it off during the daylight hours because it requires a lot of energy to overcome inertia.

I went to the gym on Tuesday. Being a sedentary person who likes to read and write going to the gym is important but it requires a lot of energy … to overcome inertia. It is the first time I've been since I have relocated which means it is probably six months since I last went. I tend to say you lose six months of your life when you move. It takes that long to tell everyone your new address, find a new hairdresser and join the gym. I was surprised I was able to do as much as I did, being so long since my last visit. Trouble is I have forgotten how to use some of the equipment. Never mind at least I have now started. The next hurdle will be keeping it up …

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Devotional thought : Ruth 4:13

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. Ruth 4:13

It was a good thing the Pharisees weren't around in Ruth's day. They would be telling Boaz how wrong he was to marry Ruth because she was a Moabite (Deuteronomy 23:3-6) despite the fact she had made a strong commitment to God. Clearly God arranged this marriage and in doing so shows us that He is a God of amazing grace. The Pharisees never understood that God loves to show grace.

The Pharisees only focused on the text. Jesus said of them, "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life" John 5:39. They studied the Scriptures looking only for the "right thing to do" but not for the "right way to be". They didn't let the text lead them to God, to His purposes, to His heart. God's laws had simply become a list of rules and regulations to be obeyed robotically. They gave no thought as to why God asked them to live with high moral standards so they enforced the law in unloving and ungracious ways.

It was God's intention that His law would lead people to Jesus, "So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith" Galatians 3:24. It never happened for the Pharisees who missed God's visitation because Jesus was not what they expected. They had studied the Scriptures mindlessly. Jesus was not impressed with the Pharisees who made a show of adhering to the outward forms of their faith with impressive devoutness. The thing that did impress Jesus was great faith (Matthew 8:10 & 15:28).

Let's also be unimpressed by devoutness without love and grace, and be impressed with those things which impress God, like great faith.

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Saturday, February 09, 2008

Book Review : The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency



The unlikelihood of a ladies detective agency in Botswana, which is the premise of the book The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency (Abacus, 2003), is made completely believable by the cases the agency is called upon to solve. Situations that would not be likely in Western culture are portrayed as normal and the unconventional manner in which they are solved is completely acceptable in this setting. The book is a mixture of humour, tragedy, romance, adventure and mystery yet Alexander McCall Smith manages to combine all these ingredients to make an easy to read and mostly enjoyable story. The pain of the main character's unhappy marriage is a sad contrast to an otherwise agreeable collection of incidents which are all resolved most satisfactorily and in McCall Smith's next book we have every reason to expect this lady detective will find martial happiness. The descriptions of Botswana reminded me of scenes from "The gods must be crazy" making them highly convincing.

A book to be read for the pure pleasure of a good story. It does not challenge the reader to look for deeper meanings or moral lessons.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Spoilers

While on holidays I thought about going to see the movie, I am Legend but it looked a bit dark and gloomy so I decided against it. However a friend of mine did see it and was telling me about the movie. Then she said, "I won't spoil it for you by telling you how it ends in case you do go and see it."

I replied, "You won't spoil it for me by telling me how it ends. In fact I would rather know how it ends so I can decide if it is worth seeing"

I feel the same about books I often skip ahead, read the last page or the last chapter because I want to know if the story is worthwhile enough to warrant the effort of reading all the in between bits. I want to know if the issues are going to be resolved in a manner that I find satisfactory. I want to know if the end is a place I want to get to. I guess I have been disappointed too many times to take the risk.

Perhaps even more surprising is that I'm quite happy to watch a replay of a tennis match (and sometimes other sports) even when I know the outcome. Knowing the ending of the match doesn't spoil it for me because it is the journey that interests me.

I feel like one of the few people in the world who just doesn't like surprises.

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Devotional thought : Ruth 3:9

"Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer" Ruth 3:9.

Ruth was an outsider. She came from Moab and was a foreigner in Israel (In fact for a long time Moabites were excluded from the congregation of God's people, Deuteronomy 23:3.). However Ruth had meet Naomi and decided she wanted Naomi's God to be her God (1:16). What was it about Naomi that attracted Ruth to her God? After all Naomi describes herself as 'bitter' (1:20). Yet even through her difficulties Naomi can't help but see the hand of God in everything. Somehow Naomi's belief in a Sovereign God who is involved in all the circumstances of our lives – good and bad – struck a cord with Ruth.

Ruth makes a decision to stay with Naomi and "as it turns out" (2:3) she finds herself working in Boaz's field. God is undetected as He orchestrates the events of Ruth's life. Boaz gets to know Ruth and finds she is a woman of noble character (3:11). In the verse quoted above Ruth, on Naomi's instructions, is signaling to Boaz her availability to marry. Boaz response is swift and they are married. Of course, Boaz must have been Naomi's kinsman-redeemer too but Naomi wants Ruth to be "well provided for" (3:1). Boaz and Ruth have a child who becomes the grandfather of King David. God deliberately includes Ruth in the royal family line, which eventually leads to Jesus.

I love the story of Ruth. We were all outsiders in God's economy. On our own merits we have done nothing to secure God's favour, no right to be included in his family, no access to His inheritance. Yet God sent Jesus to be our very own Kinsman-Redeemer. We are included when we ask Him to spread his garment of righteousness over us.

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Weekly devotion

From time to time I'm asked for permission to use my devotional thoughts in church newsletters and the like. I am always happy for people to use these thoughts in this way provided it is not for commercial gain. (Please include the following: © Susan Barnes. Used with permission.)

There are some who may like to do this on a weekly basis. If so please send an email and ask me to add you to the email list. Each week, mostly on Mondays, you will receive an email from me with the devotion attached as an A4 Word document, see sample here. It will be the same thought that is posted to my blog. However it will be in a more convenient format than copying from my blog (as well as being useful for me to know where my writing ends up!). I have also put a note in the side bar to this effect.

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Friday, February 01, 2008

Book Review : The Book Boy


The Book Boy (Bloomsbury, 2006) by Joanna Trollope is another in the series of Quick Reads. Again it is a character study, this time about Alice, a wife and mother of teenage children. Alice grew up in a dysfunctional family and didn't spend enough time at school learning to read. Consequently at thirty-eight she is still unable to read and believes herself to be 'dumb'. This negative picture of herself is adopted by her family who use her inadequacy to their advantage. Things change for Alice when she is challenged by her friend to do something about her situation instead of being resigned to it. The steps Alice takes surprise everyone. Alice uses her initiative and courage to make changes in her life that will reach far into the future. Her family is forced to change too as their mother is no longer the door-mat she once was.

I enjoyed this story of a down trodden woman facing her fears and being prepared to do something to improve her situation. Joanna Trollope has written a realistic story about the negative impact poor schooling can have on a person, how this affects their self-esteem and therefore the opportunities they have in life.

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