Thursday, June 26, 2008

Book Review : Everything Must Change



Brian McLaren has written a well paced book called, Everything must change(Thomas Nelson, 2007). It is a disturbing book which exposes many of the crises facing the world today. McLaren shares his experiences from his overseas trips to paint an alarming picture of exploitation of the world's poor, over consumption by wealthy nations and a general lack of compassion. The subtitle, Jesus, global crises and a revolution of hope seem to be a disjointed assortment of topics yet McLaren weaves these together to make his point that things desperately need to change.

McLaren points out that Jesus has a lot to say about these topics. In his parables and teaching times Jesus often spoke about the dangers of wealth and the necessity to have compassion for the poor. McLaren shares many insights which are helpful to understanding the context in which Jesus' taught. He highlights Jesus' concern for the needy and oppressed which ought to be shared by his followers. However it is in the area of global crises that McLaren is most disturbing. He quotes many statistics on excessive expenditure, particularly on military arsenal compared to the minimal expenditure on foreign aid. He also discusses the reasons for much of the world's poverty which is often due to wealthy countries exploiting poorer countries.

After much depressing news McLaren concludes with the message of hope. If Christians believe Jesus' message about the kingdom of God it is possible to turn around these current trends. With God's help we can bring about a world where people are treated equitably, with dignity and respect.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Devotional Thought : John 8:59

At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. John 8:59

Prior to this verse there were three occasions when the Jewish leaders wanted to seize Jesus but "no one laid a hand on him" (7:20; 7:44 & 8: 20) and here Jesus just slipped away. They could not seize Him because His time had not come.

A similar thing happened when Jesus preached at Nazareth. The people in the synagogue were so furious they tried to throw him off a cliff but Jesus just walked away (Luke 4:28-30). Consider also John 18:6, with a simple statement "I am He", Jesus' enemies fell to the ground. He could have walked away a free man. He has the power to knock over His enemies with a few short words.

In reply to Pilate's question, '"Don't you realise I have power either to free you or to crucify you?' Jesus answered, 'You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above"' John 19:11. Jesus understood God is the ultimate power and nothing could happen to him outside of God's purposes.

All this highlights to us not only is God is in control but He has the power to protect us. Nothing can touch us without God's permission. The difficulty is sometimes God does allow things to touch our lives. In Job we see Satan being given permission to touch Job's life (Job 1:12). We may find it difficult to understand why God allows Satan to do this. Nevertheless we can trust that God's purposes are always good and we know He will not allow more than we can bear (John 16:12). Furthermore He provides sufficient grace for whatever we are called to endure (2 Corinthians 12:9).

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Blog Birthdays

Both my blogs have birthdays in June. A booklook was 3 years old on 2nd June and The Bible Study Place is a year old on 24th June. I did wondered if I would be able to keep up a second blog but here we are a year later and we have worked out way through Mark, Philippians, Colossians, Ruth, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians and now part way through John.

I find blogging continues to be an interesting journey where I am blessed to share with sincere followers of Jesus nearby and far away.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Facebook

I decided to sign up to Facebook. A couple of people I know have posted photos there and I wanted to see them. I do like looking at photos. It is not until you sign up that you realize how time consuming it could become. I'm not planning on spending a lot of time there however it is nice to catch up with friends and see what they are doing now.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Devotional Thought : John 7:41-42

Still others asked, "How can the Christ come from Galilee? Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David's family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?" John 7: 41-42

Curiously Jesus never bothered to tell the Jews in Jerusalem the circumstances of his birth in Bethlehem or his ancestral line. Matthew, one of the disciples later wrote at length at the start of his gospel about Jesus' birth and the subtle digs at Jesus' legitimacy seem to indicate those in Galilee remembered his birth (Mark 6:3). Yet here Jesus says nothing.

Jesus knew these people would not be convinced by his family history, after all they had not been convinced by his miracles. We too need to be careful we are not so set in our own ideas that Jesus is unable to teach us anything outside of what we already know. Jesus would have made sure these Jews had sufficient information to take a step of faith. Likewise he makes sure we have sufficient information when he calls us to take a step of faith. Sometimes we may wonder why He doesn't give us more information. Sometimes we feel we need to know more about the "hows" and "whys" of his plans and purposes.

Parents will know there are times to keep information from young children. Children's life experiences are small and they find it worrying to hear things they are not mature enough to understand. Likewise as God's children God does not always tell us everything. In times of uncertainty we can always ask Jesus to show us more of his plans and purposes but ultimately we need to trust that Jesus has given us sufficient information. Maybe not as much information as we would like but nevertheless we will always have sufficient.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Book Review : Living Spirituality


Living Spirituality : illuminating the path (Destinée S.A. Switzerland, 2006) is a well thought out overview of what it means to live the Christian life. This book is compact yet it touches on all the major teachings of the Bible and gives a good overall picture of how it fits together. The author, Gregory Laughery addresses two main audiences. Firstly those who come to Christian faith from a New Age or other spiritual background and secondly those who live spiritually impoverished Christian lives through a lack of understanding of what it really means to be a Christian. Laughery addresses the shallow teaching that seems to abound in nominal Christian circles.

While this is a theological book Laughery does well in his explanations and includes stories from some of the people who he has met through his work at L'Abri Fellowship in Switzerland. This context brings a depth to his book as he is able to speak to many issues that confront people today.

I particularly enjoyed his explanation of the tension between living spiritually within the already and the not yet. We can't expect to have all the benefits associated with the coming of God's Kingdom at our conversion even though we do experience significant changes at that time. We have to live with the anticipation of knowing there is a fullness still to come.

Overall I found this to be an encouraging read, reaffirming many of my own views.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Devotional Thought : John 6:67-68

You do not want to leave too, do you? Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go?" John 6:67-68

At this point in Jesus' ministry many stopped following Him because His teaching was "too hard". Even though the crowd had been miraculously feed by the loaves and fishes it wasn't enough to convince them that Jesus was worth following. Miracles are often short lived and quickly forgotten. Even the disciples in the three days following Jesus' death seem to forget all the miracles they saw. Yet at this point the disciples, with Peter as spokesman, say, "Lord to whom shall we go?"

I often wonder what tone of voice Peter used. Was he despondent and resigned? Or was he upbeat and hopeful? Or maybe just thoughtful? However the question tells us that Peter knew despite all the difficulties of following Jesus, despite all the hard teaching, Jesus was worth following. Jesus had "the words of eternal life." The long term gain was worth the short term difficulties. We too need to learn to hold onto the long term view. Mostly God doesn't do his work instantly because those results are short lived. Many times Jesus talked about the kingdom in terms of seeds or yeast, things that take time to grow unnoticed in dark places. Yet the end result is abundance.

Peter went on to say, "We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." It didn't matter that the disciples didn't always understand what Jesus was saying or doing because they understood who He was. We too can rest in the knowledge of who Jesus is. He has everything in hand even when we do not understand. He is the Messiah, our Saviour and our Lord.

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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Modelling Christian values

Things have been fairly hectic for me lately. When I’m busy the first thing I stop doing is reading. The next thing I do is stop writing, which makes me wonder if I ever have original thoughts or just thoughts that are regurgitated?

Anyway last week I read this on my desk calendar: Children have never been good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them – James Baldwin.

It made me think about how important it is to model our Christian values to our children rather than just tell them. I spent some time last weekend with my daughter and asked how she knew she was "suppose to marry a nice Christian boy"? Since I couldn't ever remember saying that to her. (Though of course it was my heart's desire.) She said, "I don't know how I knew. I just knew." Her husband said the same thing. His parents had never specifically told him to "marry a nice Christian girl" but he knew they would be upset if he brought home a girl who wasn't a Christian.

The old adage "Christianity is more caught than taught" is very true. Children will pick up our values often without us saying a word which is both a blessing and a very great challenge.

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Devotional Thought : John 5:13

The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. John 5:13

Sometimes I think I have God all worked out then I find an occasion in the Bible where He does something outside "the box" of my understanding.

I know God wants us to come to Him and ask. I know God wants us to express our faith in Him. I know God wants us to avoid wrong behaviour but then God heals the man at the pool of Bethesda. Firstly the man doesn't ask to be healed and actually doesn't seem particularly interested in getting healed (v.7). Secondly he doesn't express faith in Jesus since he doesn't even know who He is! Thirdly Jesus tells him to "stop sinning" which suggests he was sinning as he lay beside the pool. All of which leads me to wonder why Jesus picked this man out of the crowd to be healed when there were others who I might consider more deserving of healing.

Sometimes we reduce our relationship with God to a formula which says if I pray in a certain way using certain words then God is obligated to answer. But God is never obligated to us. Having a formula for God is far less challenging than having a relationship with Him.

Our relationship with Jesus is to be so close that in the next chapter Jesus describes it in terms of eating his flesh and drinking his blood (6:53). This was too much for many of those who had been following Jesus and they turned back. It is a challenge for us too. We need to develop our relationship with God, lay aside our preconceived ideas of how we think God should operate and acknowledge His Sovereignty.

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