Thursday, August 28, 2008

Long Preparation, Short Performance

The Olympics has kept me from my usual book reading the last couple of weeks. This is the first Olympics in a very long time that we did not have any children at home and I found it much harder to keep up with the favourites, the Australian athletes, the number of medals etc. Still it was good to see a number of Aussies doing well and I liked the gymnastics whoever was performing.

It got me thinking about the years of preparation that go into the Olympics, and then it is all over so quickly. Makes me think that God also takes a lot of time preparing us for our role(s) in life and sometimes those roles may not last very long either; yet they are important in the larger scheme of things, but we may not realize it at the time. In fact we may never realize it this side of heaven.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Devotional Thought : John 17:3

“Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” John 17:3.

This is an interesting definition of eternal life—knowing God. The definition that is more likely to spring to our minds when we think of eternal life, is heaven. Yet maybe even our definition of heaven isn’t big enough. In the gospels the phrase kingdom of heaven seems to be the same as the kingdom of God, meaning God's reign is heaven. This means heaven more than just a place. Heaven is where God is in charge, where his will is done. We pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). We are praying earth will be more like heaven. We are praying for God to reign on earth.

Eternal life is not just something we get when we die, it starts the moment we become a Christian. “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11-12). From the moment Jesus comes into our lives we begin to experience eternal life. Jesus described it as water “… but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).

As we thirst after God and grow in our love and knowledge of him, we experience more of Jesus. We become more aware of his reign in our own lives and we want his reign to be more evident in others as well as in the world.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Book Review : The Waterdogs

The Waterdogs (Ark House, 2004) is the first of a three books series. It tells the story of a Christian school teacher who moves to a small town in the Mallee district in Victoria, Australia. She is a city girl who learns to adjust to life in this farming district and along the way uncovers something of her own history. The book has a great plot and is an interesting read. However I often found the dialogue contrived. The author, Jennifer Moore, seems to be cramming too much into the conversations. My only other criticism would be in regard to a letter the main character receives about two thirds of the way through the book. The reader is not given enough hints as to the contents prior to her receiving it so it does not create the intrigue the author intends. Apart from these minor criticisms it is very pleasant to read a story with a Christian base that is set in Australia, and in my own home state. A rare find indeed!

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Devotional Thought : John 16:33

“Jesus answered … ‘In this world you will have trouble’” John 16:33.

I wonder if the disciples were shocked when Jesus said this? After all, by this time they had seen Jesus perform many miracles—water into wine, multiplying bread and fish, people healed, and raised from the dead. Why would the disciples expect trouble when God could work miracles? Furthermore Jesus had told them to ask “for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

The real key is in the first half of the verse, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.” In Jesus we have peace. We don’t necessarily have peace in our circumstances but we can always have peace in Jesus. God could prevent difficulties but rather he chooses to let us experience His peace in the midst of them. Being at peace in a difficult situation is a miracle in itself because it shows the world we are trusting in God; it also adds to the devil’s demise. When we trust God in difficult circumstances we demonstrate our belief in something greater and more enduring than temporary relief from our problems. We believe God is doing a work that has eternal consequence. We are relying on Paul's words which tells us, “what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

Nevertheless it is important for us to believe God not only has the ability to perform miracles but does perform miracles from time to time. This gives us the faith to know God is indeed powerful and compassionate. However, whether God intervenes directly in our circumstances or not we know, “his works are perfect, and all his ways are just” (Deuteronomy 32:4).

Let’s choose to trust Him and avail ourselves of His peace.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Have you read ... ?

I read 2-3 books per month so it is difficult to remember where I read something. At the moment I am trying to find a story I read, maybe ten years ago, I want to cite it in my writing. These days I try to keep track of stories and illustrations that I might want to quote at a later date but back then I wasn’t writing much so it didn’t occur to me to keep records. Anyway I was wondering if there is someone out there in cyberspace who might have read the same story and can give me some clues as to who wrote it. Here’s what I remember:

There was a man whose life was chaotic because of various addictions. He was trying to get his life back on track. One day he was sitting in an arm chair reading the Bible when he felt God say to him, “if you were never able to move from this chair and do another thing for Me, I would not love you any less than I do right now.” He suddenly realized he did not have to do things to earn God’s approval. Ultimately it was this realization that gave him the strength to break his addictions.

Of course, with the passage of time, my mind may have added or subtracted from the original story. About the time I read this story I was reading a lot of Neil Anderson's books. However I have checked many of his books and couldn't find this particular story. If you have any ideas please leave a comment or send me an email, thanks.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Devotional Thought : John 15:14-15

You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because servants do not know their master's business. John 15:14-15.

It is a remarkable position God puts us in, no longer called servants but friends. Elsewhere we find we are no longer orphans but God's children. In Hebrews we read, "Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters (2:11). "We are not only God's friends, but Jesus' brothers and sisters by divine intervention. Not by anything we have achieved but rather because God has chosen to make us holy. Thus we are in God's family alongside Jesus who is also holy not because God made him holy but because He always has been. Earlier in John we find, "On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you" 14:20. So we see God places us in this privilege position.

From this position God wants us to know His "business". Jesus tells us "everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." Some days we may think we haven't a clue as to what God is doing. However we do know about God's long term plans. We know God's purpose is to bring people into a closer relationship with Him. We know God's purpose in sending Jesus was "to destroy the devil's work" (1 John 3:8). We know God is working towards a culmination where everyone will acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord (Philippians 1:11).

While we may not know the day to day details of God's plans, we can trust Him because we know the end result is good.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

Book Review : The film club, pt 2

As promised a couple of quotes from, The film club.

I identify with this first quote because I often like to know how a movie or a book ends before I see it/read it and it doesn't spoil it for me if I know how it ends.

(Regarding movies) … the second time you see something is really the first time. You need to know how it ends before you can appreciate how beautifully it's put together from the beginning.
~ The film club (Ebury Press, 2008) by David Gilmour pg. 44

I identify with this second quote because I have had teenage sons!

In response to his father's question, "What the hell were you thinking?" Gilmour writes this about his son: "He didn't answer. You could see he was racing around inside his head, ripping open doors and cupboards, looking for the right thing to say."
~ The film club (Ebury Press, 2008) by David Gilmour pg. 56

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Book Review : The film club

The National Post describes David Gilmour as "a brave writer and a brave father". I would have to agree. In his book, The film club (Ebury Press, 2008), Gilmour tells the story of how he allowed his son to drop out of high school on the proviso he watched three films a week of his father's choosing. The book covers the three year period Gilmour and his son watched movies together. Fortuitously during this time Gilmour was experiencing a career shift and had spare time on his hands. Gilmour had at one time worked as a film critic for a television show, he knew about films. The films he chose were mostly classics of one sort or another. Gilmour knew about the plots, the sub-plots, the directors and even the camera men. Watching movies with his son soon became the back drop for a multitude of conversations about life, work, women, drink, drugs, sex and in the process his son grows up.

Not only is Gilmour brave in allowing his son to drop out of school, he is also brave in sharing his story publicly. He tells the story well, sharing his reservations and doubts in an honest and slightly humorous way. He is not afraid of sharing his embarrassments and his own failures. Thereby making a story which is easy to relate to, especially if you have ever been the parent of a teenage boy.

Tomorrow I'll share a couple of my favourite lines.

Please note since I usually review Christian books, I just want to make it clear this is not a Christian book and as such contains bad language and bad morals – but nevertheless it is a great story!

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Devotional Thought : John 14:11

"… or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves." John 14:11

Jesus' miracles were object lessons he used to encourage faith. Jesus wanted people to consider His miracles so they would believe in Him. Previously Jesus said to the Jews, "even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father" (10:38) also "Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe" (11:14-15). Miracles are signs which point to God. They tell us about His compassion, His power and His grace.

Seeing miracles will not necessarily create faith. In Exodus 14:31 after the Israelites had crossed the Red Sea on dry land, we read the people put their trust in the Lord because they had seen "the great power of the Lord displayed". However three days later, in Exodus 15:22-24, the people grumbled because of lack of water. This is one of the many times when the people of Israel saw God's miracles and then forgot. They didn't allow God's miracles to teach them God could be trusted to take care of them.

Moses was different. He saw what God did and consider it. Moses trusted God in the hard times because He had learnt from the miracles he had seen. In Exodus 33:13 Moses had prayed – "teach me your ways" and in Psalm 103:7 we see this answer, "He made known His ways to Moses, His deeds to the people of Israel". This verse tells us Moses knew God's ways, the people of Israel only ever knew God's deeds. They didn't allow God's deeds to teach them God's ways.

Far better to know God's ways than only his deeds.

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Friday, August 01, 2008

Book Review : The Living Church

John Stott is a well respected pastor and teacher. In his book, The living church (Inter-Varsity Press 2007), he presents his ideas on church. He very obviously loves the church. I found it refreshing to read about the strengths of traditional churches when there is so much negative talk about the church today. Stott does not white wash current church problems but rather paints a picture of what the church can be.

Stott covers all the essential ingredients of church life giving insights from Bible passages. I particularly enjoyed his emphasis on worship and the fleshing out of his statement, "worship is the church's preeminent duty". Stott also believes in the value of small groups where people can experience true fellowship. Towards the end of the book he discusses the church as salt and light. This was by far the most challenging chapter as he points out if society is becoming corrupt it is because the church is not being salt and light to its community. Stott includes several appendices which are largely autobiographical. Stott had his 80th birthday in 2001 and these appendices provide further insights into his thinking.

Overall I found this to be a very hopeful and encouraging book.

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