Thursday, November 27, 2008

Devotional Thought : Jude 25

“To the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” Jude 25

Jude, at the start of his letter says, “I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that the Lord has once for all entrusted to us, his people” (v.3). He concludes by saying, “To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy” (v.24).

There is an interesting tension between these two verses. Jude is saying we need to contend for our faith and yet it is God who keeps us so we are ultimately presented faultless. If God is going to present us faultless why contend for our faith?

Since we know full well we are not faultless on our own account, it requires faith to trust God to present us “without fault and with great joy”. If we are led astray by individuals who “pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality” then we eventually get to the point of where we, “deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord” (v.4) and we have no faith at all.

However when our faith is in God’s sustaining power than we have no fear of being led astray. We build up our faith by praying and by being open to receiving God’s love (v.20-21). It is when we think we are strong in ourselves that we are in danger of being led astray, since it is then we are not trusting God.

It is only from a position of trust in God that we are able to extend mercy and grace to those who are struggling (v.22-23), without being led astray ourselves.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Book Review : Jesus Take the Wheel ch. 3

Chapter Three: Key #2 Ask for directions—gain wisdom from God’s helpers

There are several times in Moses’ life when God sent him helpers. Aaron, when Moses confronted Pharaoh; Aaron and Hur, when the Israelites fought the Amalekites; and Jethro, when Moses needed advice about delegating responsibilities. Likewise God sends us helpers and we need to be willing and open to accept their help. Moses was a reluctant leader who willingly shared the leadership with others. He didn’t seek prominence. This was one of the reasons God was able to powerfully use him.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Bible on your desktop

There are lots of emails doing the 'rounds' on the internet but I came across one the other day that I have found to be good value. It is a table of internet links to BibleGateway.com where there are individual links to every chapter of the Bible. (This must have taken someone serious time!) By keeping the page on my desktop I can open it, click on a particular chapter, and it opens the appropriate page in BibleGateway in the New International Version (providing I'm connected to the internet, of course). At this point I can change the Bible translation if I want to.

If you would like this table please send me an email and I'll forward it on. Also there were about six broken links in the original email that I received which I've since fixed. So if you have a copy but would like a new copy just ask :)

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Devotional Thought : 3 John 4

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 3 John 4

In Luke 15:7 & 10 we are told there is rejoicing in the presence of angels over one sinner who repents. Here John tells us that his greatest joy is to hear people are continuing in their faith. While it is good to be excited over people coming to faith, it is even more exciting when we see people growing in their faith and walking in the truth.

In the parable of the sower we notice that there were four types of ground that the seed fell upon; the path, the rocky places, amongst the thorns, and on good soil. In three out of four places the seed came up. However the seed that fell on rocky places and the seed that fell among the thorns did not continue. It is only the seed which fell on the good soil that goes on to produce a crop.

It is not enough to make a good start. If our lives are going to produce a “crop” we need to continue in the face of trouble and in the presence of “the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things” (Mark 4:19). In Jesus’ explanation of this parable we find that in all four situations they “hear the word” but only the good soil accepts it or “embraces it” (The Message).

If we are going to continue in our faith and bring great joy to others then God needs us to be like the good soil which embraces his word. We do this by learning more of God’s word and applying it to our lives.

So are we embracing God’s word or merely giving it mental consent?

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Book Review : Jesus Take the Wheel ch. 2

Chapter Two: Key #1 Which driver is most important? Selfless life

Using the example of Moses, Migdon discusses our tendency to take matters into our own hands as well as our desire for recognition from others. Knowing God had called him to deliver his people, Moses’ first attempt resulted in murdering an Egyptian. He then spent 40 years in obscurity shepherding sheep, learning God’s way of doing things. Likewise God purifies our motives so our goal is revealing God’s charactor, and not self-recognition.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Book Review : Cape Refuge

Cape Refuge (Zondervan, 2002) is a Christian fiction mystery novel by Terri Blackstock. It is set near Savannah in Georgia and begins with the tragic murders of Thelma and Wayne Owens. The murder weapon belongs to their son-in-law, Jonathan and he is immediately arrested. The Owens had been running Hanover House, a halfway house to shelter those who need a place to stay while getting their lives back on track. So numerous questionable characters have stayed there but are any of them capable of murder?

The future of Hanover House is also thrown into turmoil. The Owens have two daughters, Blair, who is completely uninterested in her parent’s life style and Morgan, Jonathan’s wife who is overwhelmed with the turn of events. Combined together these events make for an interesting story with many twists and turns before the culprit is revealed. Terri Blackstock has chosen to write this story with a Christian backdrop, raising the question of why God would allow Christians to die prematurely and brutally. While no answers are given we are able to identify with Blackstock’s characters as they struggle with their grief and wrestle with the problem of suffering.

Cape Refuge is written in an unusual genre which gives Blackstock the opportunity to discuss the deeper issues of life and death. An enjoyable read.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Devotional Thought : 2 John 12

I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete. 2 John 12

Even today with all our instant messaging, with emails, SMS’s, online conversations, there is still nothing like a face to face visit (which is why we take holidays to visit our kids!). God knew this too. He had used people like Moses and the prophets to bring his messages. Many of these prophets wrote down their messages but God always knew a face to face meeting would be necessary. So He sent Jesus. “…in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son… The Son...is the exact representation of God's being” (Hebrews 1:2-3).

Famous people are often encouraged to write autobiographies and painters produce self-portraits. The idea being that people that don't have the opportunity to meet them in the flesh will be able to read about them, or view their paintings, and know what they were really like.

When God wanted to show us what He was really like He sent a self-portrait - Jesus. Jesus confirmed this in John 14:9 saying, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”

God has gone to enormous lengths so we can really know Him and be in relationship with Him. His consuming passion, from Genesis to Revelation is to have a close relationship with us because He loves us. Sometimes we are overwhelmed by a God who loves like this. So we want to keep God a safe distance away, at arm's length. We forget that He is our heavenly Father who cares deeply for us. He wants us to receive His love, and let ourselves be loved.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Book Review : Jesus take the wheel ch.1

Chapter One: Ignition: Who is at the Wheel?—Be a Humble Passenger

This chapter looks at humility and Migdon focuses our attention on children. There are many child-like qualities that God wants us to emulate. Children understand they have no power or influence of their own; they trust instinctively; they are generally teachable; they don’t hide their motives; and their dependency doesn’t embarrass them. Of course, the challenge is for us to adopt these child-like attitudes.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Long Books

I don’t like long books. How weird is that? I love reading and read a lot but when I’m presented with a long book (over 400 pages) I hesitate. I like to read a book within a couple of days so I don’t lose momentum. If I put a book down for a few days it is hard for me to reconnect with it; often I don’t even bother. Consequently I will wait until I know I’m going to have free time before starting a book so I can finish reading it within a couple of days. This means I generally start a book on a Friday night or Saturday so there is enough time for me to finish it before I start work again on Tuesday (I work part-time and don’t work on Mondays). While this approach works well with most fiction books it does have drawbacks when I’m reading non-fiction. Sometimes I read so quickly I lose the impact of the author’s insights. I don’t have time to think about and apply the author’s teaching because I have already moved onto to his next thought. To rectify this I do one of two things. I will read the book through quickly as per normal but then I will go back and reread those chapters which I need to think about more carefully. Alternatively I will make a disciplined attempt to read the book in sections over a longer period of time.

Recently I was given a copy of “Jesus Take the Wheel : 7 keys to a transformed life with God” by Stuart Migdon and I have decided to take this second approach with reading his book. It has nine chapters so my plan is to read one chapter per weekend. It will be interesting to see if I can work my plan.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Devotional Thought : 1 John 5:4

This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 1 John 5:4

Often, it seems like faith is such a weak and foolish thing, yet we know: “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (1 Corinthians 1:28).

Our faith in God is like a child’s faith in their parent. When I had children, I wanted to be the kind of mother who took my children’s questions seriously. A noble goal, but very quickly I made an interesting discovery. Children are big enough to ask questions, long before they are big enough to understand the answers. Sometimes I was disappointed that I could not explain things in ways they could understand, but I noticed that it did not bother them. They accepted the fact there were things they did not understand. Likewise children do not worry about paying the bills or fixing the car. They simply trust their parents to take care of them.

This verse is telling us when we exercise child-like trust we achieve a significant victory. By exercising faith we are demonstrating our belief in an all wise, good, and loving God. We accept there will some things we do not understand. When we have child-like trust we do not need all our questions answered; all our uncertainties dealt with; or all the evidence to be in.

Still it is not easy to trust. Sometimes we feel like God is somehow cheating on us and deliberating keeping information from us. When we find ourselves in those situations, where God doesn’t seem to provide satisfactory explanations, then it’s time to remember we are His children. We can trust God, just like our children trust us.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Synchroblog : Give someone else a turn!

One of the largely undervalued aspects of leadership in churches, is the need to train others. When we look at Jesus’ leadership model we notice he regularly gave leadership roles to the seemingly unqualified.

In Luke 10:9 we see Jesus sending out the seventy to announce, "the Kingdom of God is near you." Previously when the twelve were sent out they were "to preach the kingdom of God" which is interesting because when we look at Acts 1:6, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” It shows the disciples were still thinking of a physical kingdom and did not really understand the true nature of God’s kingdom even though they had been preaching about it.

Furthermore would we have chosen uneducated fishermen, quick tempered brothers and a dodgy tax collector to be the leaders of the church? It seems Jesus regularly appointed people to positions who we would consider incompetent. Remember Jesus also had the disciples, including Judas, healing the sick and casting out demons. Unfortunately in churches we tend to wait until someone is mature and their ability is fully developed. Or perhaps our reasons are more selfish. Are we afraid we will miss out on opportunities of using our gifts and abilities if we encourage others?

Sometimes Christians, who should know their worth is in being God’s children, seem to find their worth in their performance. They refuse others the chance of being involved because they don’t want to step aside. They may justify themselves by saying others are inept or unreliable when all they really are, is inexperienced. This would soon be rectified if they were given some opportunities. I’ve heard people commenting with pride that they have been playing the piano, or printing the newsletter, or handing our song books, or whatever, at their church for 10…20…25 years. I feel like saying, “How sad that you couldn’t find anyone to train.”

We need to stop clinging to our area of ministry and start looking for someone who needs an opportunity, particularly a young person. Young people often leave the church out of boredom. They were never asked to make any meaningful contribution and consequently never felt like they belonged. I’ve seen 14 year-olds lead worship, play the piano, teach Sunday school, and pray in public. They may not do it as well and their efforts may not be as polished but often they do it with a great heart. And isn’t heart attitude more important than performance?

Maybe our real fear is that someone will do it better than us, or differently, and we may never get asked again. Regardless of our reluctance, others need the chance to test their abilities, stretch their faith and discover which area of service God wants them in. We also need to bear in mind that Jesus was a whole lot less worried about failure than we are. At Jesus' arrest when Peter cut off the ear of the high priest's servant, Jesus touched him, and healed him (Luke 22:51). Jesus still has the power to fix and heal the mistakes we make.

So it’s time to give someone else a turn!

This post is part of a synchroblog on the topic of "Leadership". You can see the posts from the other synchrobloggers by clicking on the links below:

Jonathan Brink - Letter To The President

Adam Gonnerman - Aspiring to the Episcopate

Kai - Leadership - Is Servant Leadership a Broken Model?

Sally Coleman - In the world but not of it- servant leadership for the 21st Century Church

Alan Knox - Submission is given not taken

Joe Miller - Elders Lead a Healthy Family: The Future

Cobus van Wyngaard - Empowering leadership

Steve Hayes - Servant leadership

Geoff Matheson - Leadership

John Smulo - Australian Leadership Lessons

Helen Mildenhall - Leadership

Tyler Savage - Moral Leadership - Is it what we need?

Bryan Riley - Leading is to Listen and Obey

Liz Dyer - A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Polls...

Bill Ellis - Leadership and the Re-humanizing of the World

Ellen Haroutunian - A New Kind of Leadership

Matt Stone - Converting Leadership

Julie Clawson - Leadership Expectations

Kathy Escobar – I’m pretty sure this leadership book won’t make it on the bestseller list

Bethany Stedman - A Leadership Mosaic

Sonja Andrews - Leadership In An Age of Cholera

Lionel Woods - Why Diverse Leadership is Good for America

Steve Bradley - Lording or Leading?

Adam Myers - Two types of Leadership

Fuzzy Orthodoxy - Self Leadership

Tara Hull - Leadership & Being A Single Mom

Joe Speranzella - Leadership: This Election and Social Justice

Beth Patterson - Leadership: being the river

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