Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Devotional Thought : 2 Samuel 6:8

Then David was angry because the Lord's wrath had broken out against Uzzah. 2 Samuel 6:8

At this time David had recently been acknowledged as king over Israel. He had taken up residence in Jerusalem and had successful victories over the Philistines. Things were going well for David. He was enjoying favour with the people and with God so he decided to bring the ark of God to Jerusalem. The ark was a wooden box overlaid with gold inside and out. It had been made during the time the Israelites spent in the desert with Moses. It was a symbolic part of their worship.

The ark was heavy and needed to be moved some distance so David arranged to carry the ark in a new cart. Everything was going well until the ox stumbled and Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark. He died instantly. It is then we come to 2 Samuel 6:8, "David was angry". All of a sudden David didn't understand God at all. David had been seeking to follow God's direction but now things had gone horribly wrong and a man had lost his life.

Three months later David tries again. This time the priests carried the ark as God had instructed them in the first place (Exodus 25:10-15) and there was much rejoicing when the ark finally arrived in Jerusalem. A cart had been an easy and comfortable solution, but God was not pleased. Sometimes worship is hard work and God does not want us to take short cuts.

In Jonah 4:2 Jonah was angry because God was too merciful and compassionate and here David was angry because God was too severe. Our values are often very different to God's therefore as we mature as Christians we need to rethink our values.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Book Review : The Dawkins Letters pt 2


The Dawkins Letters : challenging atheist myths by David Robertson (Christian Focus, 2007) were written as a response to Richard Dawkins' book "The God Delusion" and Robertson makes three main points.

Firstly despite being a highly qualified scientist many of Dawkins' arguments are not in fact scientific but rather emotional. Secondly many of his arguments are opposing a caricature of God and not the God Christians actually believe in. Thirdly, and the main reason he wrote the book is his concern about Dawkins' desire for an atheistic state. Historically Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were the only leaders of official atheistic states, not great role models and surely not paths the world wants to go down again.

It seems Dawkins' main scientific argument against a belief in God is evolution. Dawkins' thinking is evolution shows things gets more complex as time passes therefore a Divine Designer would come at the end of the process not the start. He has not allowed for a Divine Designer to be outside of the evolution process and he has completed dismissed Christian scientists like Francis Collins who are committed Christians and believers in evolution. It seems Dawkins simply doesn't like God and would rather ignore Him.

The Dawkins Letters are well researched and speak to the many issues Dawkins raises. Robertson is often scathing in his criticism of Dawkins' shallow arguments and unscientific logic. I found it to be an enjoyable read and entertaining. I loved the subtle English humor. However I imagine it would be a lot less enjoyable if you were an atheist reading this book!

(I wrote a few comments previously about this book and you can find those comments here.)

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Devotional Thought : 2 Thessalonians 3:16

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. 2 Thessalonians 3:16

God wants us have "peace at all times and in every way". In Exodus 14 we find Moses facing the Red Sea, not a place you expect to find peace. However we read, "Moses answered the people, 'Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still'" (Exodus 14:13-14). In the Amplified Bible v.14 reads, "The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace and remain at rest."

When we hold our peace and remain at rest in difficult circumstances we actually make God's name glorious. Speaking about the same incident Isaiah writes, "… they were given rest by the Spirit of the Lord. This is how you guided your people to make for yourself a glorious name" Isaiah 63:14. We make God's name glorious by resting in Him, then it is obvious the peace we are experiencing is not coming from our circumstances but from God.

When we do the opposite, becoming agitated and disturbed by circumstances, we allow the devil to succeed. We are probably all familiar with John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." Notice the Amplified Bible adds "Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled."

It is a challenge, holding onto our peace and remaining at rest regardless of the situation.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Book Review : The Dawkins Letters pt 1

I've also been reading, The Dawkins Letters : challenging atheist myths by David Robertson. The Dawkins Letters were written as a response to Richard Dawkins' book "The God Delusion". I'll post a proper book review next week but for now I want to just share a few interesting thoughts.

I wrote about Richard Dawkins (though not by name) about a year ago and posted it here. One of the things I felt when I wrote that article was Dawkins concept of God was far too small. I felt this again when I was reading David Robertson's book. I've taken some quotes from pages 65-66, where Robertson is explaining Dawkins' position:

(Dawkins believes) Evolution is true. Evolution explains the illusion of design. The design argument is the main argument for God. Therefore there is no God.
(Robertson then quotes from Dawkins himself)

"To suggest that the original prime mover was complicated enough to indulge in intelligent design, to say nothing of mind reading millions of humans simultaneously, is tantamount to dealing yourself a perfect hand at bridge."

Probably you need to read it in context to get the full force of what is going on here but it says to me Dawkins doesn't understand how 'big' God is. Of course God is complicated enough to indulge in intelligent design, of course God can read millions human minds simultaneously, of course God can deal Himself a perfect hand at bridge if He wanted to! It is easy to dismiss God when you have such a small concept of him, particularly if you think a God would only exist to make your life better.

~~~

There is very little in the book about historical evidence. Scientists tend to think everything must be proved scientifically yet much of what we believe about the world is based on historical evidence. For example we believe Homer wrote two famous epic poems, The Iliad and The Odyssey based on historical evidence. We believe Christopher Columbus discovered America based on historical evidence. There is much historical evidence (outside the Bible) for Jesus' life and death. There is much historical evidence about the origins of the Bible. I'm guessing this is not relevant here because the arguments in the books are more centered on the origin of the universe. Nevertheless I get a little weary of scientists demanding we prove everything scientifically when there are other ways of knowing things.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Devotional Thought : Jeremiah 18:6

"O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?" declares the Lord. Jeremiah 18:6

It is not uncommon to love someone but hate what they do. For example husbands and wives who love their spouses may hate the way they leave their clothes lying about or the lid off the toothpaste or the way they drive the car. Parents love their children, but not always their behaviour. Likewise we may love God but not always what He does. We may not like the way He chooses to shape the clay, especially when we are the clay!

Recently someone made this comment about atheists on my web site: "… it is not because they (atheist) don't know who God is ... they simply don't like Him.... so ignoring the fact that He is there is the way they deal with Him."

I commented, "I actually think it not only atheists who think like this. I suspect some Christians also have times when they ignore God simply because they don't like him or don't like the way He operates."

Some days we struggle with the Sovereignty of God. God is running His world according to His agenda, not ours. We cannot demand God comes through for us on our terms. Paul talks about this in Romans 9:20 "But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?" Whether we like it or not God has the right to do whatever He likes with what is His.

He is Potter we are the clay.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

The Reality/Fantasy Line

I had read about 100 pages of The Shack before I went away for the weekend. At this point I was struggling with the concept of reading a fictional story which was written as if it was a real story and deliberately blurs the line between reality and fantasy. (Perhaps I should point out that I don't read a lot of fiction and even less fantasy!)

So I packed The Shack and took off for the weekend. One of the novelties for us of staying in a motel is they quite often have pay TV which we don't have at home. (Pay TV is a lot less common in Australia than in the US.) I was flicking around the stations on the motel's TV and came across the movie, Stranger Than Fiction which had only just started. It was a movie I had wanted to watch for ages and had been on the verge of hiring a couple of times but it hadn't happened for various reasons. So I watched the movie and really enjoyed it, being about a writer and all. Later as I was thinking about it I realized that in this movie the line between reality and fantasy is also blurred. I thought about another couple of movies I like, The Lake House and Kate & Leopold which also blurs reality and fantasy. I realized this ploy enables the writer to bring out outcomes that would not be achievable otherwise.

I decided I should stop being concerned about the reality/fantasy thing in The Shack and just enjoy reading it which I did, so much so that as soon as I had finished reading it, I started again and reread most it! It is such a great story that I felt like I missed many of the powerful truths the first time through. I will write a proper book review in a couple of weeks when I have had more time to process it. However in the meantime I will leave you with a quote from the book which is part of a conversation where the character representing God is talking to the main character, Mackenzie:

"The real underlying flaw in your life, Mackenzie, is that you don't think I am good. If you knew I was good and that everything – the means, the ends, and all the processes of individual lives – is all covered by my goodness, then while you might not always understand what I'm doing, you would trust me. But you don't.

… Trust is the fruit of a relationship in which you know you are loved. Because you do not know that I love you, you cannot trust me." (pg 126)

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Birthdays and weddings

I’m having a birthday today. I received some books (no surprise there!) – The Shack by William Young, You See Bones I See an Army : changing the way we do church by Floyd McClung and The Bible Jesus Read by Philip Yancey. I'm also reading The Dawkins letters : challenging atheist myths by David Robertson so lots of good book reviews coming up (I hope!).

Meanwhile I head off on Thursday to attend a wedding of some young friends who are getting married on Saturday. We live in the north east of the state, they live in the south east, theoretically we should be able to just head south but there is a mountain range in the middle! Not being a lover of long, winding, dirt roads we are doing a loop around which will take a while so I probably won't be back until Tuesday of next week.

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Devotional Thought : Psalm 37:5

"Commit your way to the Lord ..." Psalm 37:5

Working at the library I deal with many customer enquiries, after I have dealt with the enquiry I sometimes can't remember what I was doing before the interruption! Others in the workforce will find a similar thing and so will parents. In the middle of doing something, a child demands attention. After dealing with the situation one can find oneself wondering around the house saying, "Now, what was I doing?"

Something similar happens in the Christian life. We commit ourselves to read a daily devotion or a Bible reading plan or to pray through a list. Then something unexpected happens which interrupts us. We get behind in our daily readings or forget who we were praying for. We seen unable to catch up or to return to it with the same vigour and often feel a great sense of guilt about it.

Jesus had occasions where His plans were interrupted. Following the death of John the Baptist, Jesus wanted to be alone and withdrew to a solitary place but the crowds followed Him. Instead of having time to grieve and be with His Father he fed the five thousand (Matthew 14:13-14). However interruptions did not bother Jesus, He simply moved onto the next assignment God had for Him.

We cannot plan for interruptions, but we can remember to commit our ways to the Lord. Sometimes in my life God has allowed interruptions to make me realise my commitment to Him is more important than a commitment to a particular Christian discipline - no matter how beneficial that discipline might be. By committing our ways to God, interruptions will still come but we don't need to feel guilty about getting behind because we know He is Lord, even the Lord of interruptions.

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Saturday, April 05, 2008

Book Review : Prayer Triplets

Prayer Triplets is simply another way of saying praying in groups of three. The idea has been around for a long time and seems to have developed momentum prior to evangelical outreaches such as the Billy Graham crusades. I read Prayer Triplets : praying for a spiritual awakening (Anzea, 1988) as a result of my own church becoming involved in prayer triplets. Much of the book is about prayer in general and the author, Brian Mills covers all the basics. The benefits of praying in a group of threes are particularly discussed and examples from the Bible of three people praying together are highlighted.

The distinctive focus of a prayer triplet is each person in the triplet nominates three people who need to discover Christ as Saviour and Lord. The group generally meets weekly and prays for these nine people. Mostly the group meets for 12 to 18 months before it needs to be revamped. The hope is the group would also pray for other needs and other people as situations arise. It has been found that one of the unplanned benefits of praying in a small group is often spiritual growth takes place amongst the members.

The book is encouraging as it is filled with stories of answered prayers. Mills also discusses occasions where there seems to be no answers to pray and occasions where situations actually become worse after people started praying. While this is not a riveting book it does contain lots of useful information.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Family News

Last year two of my three children were married, last weekend my other son got engaged! They both use to blog quite regularly but lately … nothing! Anyway in less than a two year period all my children will be married which feels a bit odd, suddenly I'm a mother-in-law three times over. You have your children a couple of years apart and you tend to expect them to get married a couple of years apart – silly expectation really. I mean I'm two years younger than my brother and got married 16 years earlier so you never can tell!

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Devotional Thought : 1 Thessalonians 5:10

He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 1 Thessalonians 5:10

The heart of God is for relationship. Whether we live or die He wants to be with us. While this is a great comfort it is also a great challenge. Sometimes we would prefer a God who "watches from a distance."*

Selwyn Hughes wrote this in Every Day With Jesus: "People like the idea of a God who keeps His distance, who provides but doesn't intrude, who protects but never demands, who never judges and never meddles. There are thousands of nominal Christians who view God in this way. They like a God who is there but who doesn't intrude on their daily lives, except when they are in trouble."

We like to run our own lives. It is a blow to our pride and our sense of competence to seek God's guidance. We don't really want God messing with our plans. Yet God is not easily put off. I read this comment by Jean Church on a desk calendar: "God is changeless. He will be unusual, He won't strike an average anywhere. He will get out of bounds and meet us on any level with His patience and His love and His bounty". I know I have tried to keep God in certain areas of my life. Those areas which were acceptable and spiritual and I have tried to keep Him out of other areas. It didn't work. "He will get out of bounds". I discovered while I might have categories marked spiritual and secular, God does not.

Yet God's interest in us is always for our best. He will continue to call us into a deeper relationship with Himself. The question is, how will we respond?

*Bette Midler recording, "From a Distance".

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