Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Book Review : Jesus Take the Wheel ch.8

Chapter Eight: Key #7 What being a passenger is all about—find joy on the journey

God wants us to experience joy as we go through life. By focusing on God and developing a dependant relationship on him through prayer we can have a life of joy. At those times when we have difficulties we can turn to God for comfort and compassion. His forgiveness is always available to us and his word helps our faith to grow. Other things that will bring us joy are sharing our faith with others, giving, and taking time to appreciate God’s creation.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Devotional Thought : Jonah 1

Over the next few weeks I'd like to share some thoughts that occurred to me while studying the book of Jonah at the Bible Study Place.

The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the Lord… Jonah 1:1-3

Jonah had a good reason for running away. He did not want Nineveh to repent. These people were Israel's enemies. They were a brutal and violent people bent on war. They were a threat to Israel’s survival as a nation and Jonah wanted God to wipe them out. History would later prove Jonah's fears justified. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria which attacked Israel and took its people into captivity.

So when we look at Jonah’s disobedience we must not overlook his motives. Don’t we want God to wipe out those things which would defeat us and take us captive? God's ways are not our ways. He does not always response to things that threaten our peace and security the way we would like. Sometimes God requires us to face our enemies and tell them the truth.

Our enemies are unlikely to be a nation bent on overthrowing us but we have spiritual enemies that are just as eager to destroy our peace and security. Enemies that would tell us we are not good enough, not gifted enough, or not sin free enough for God to be interested in. However the truth is God’s grace is sufficient for all our shortcomings.

It requires faith to march into the enemy’s territory and announce the truth of God’s word. It requires patience and persistence to believe God’s word in the face of opposition. Yet ultimately our enemies, whether physical or spiritual, will be forced to surrender. James 4:7 tells us, “Submit yourselves, then to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Wishing everyone who passes by here a lovely Christmas. I will be away for a few days catching up with family.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Devotional Thought : Luke 1:31-33

“You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most high.” Luke 1:31-33

Consider this abbreviated version of that first Christmas in the words of Phillip Yancey: “An angel appeared to some teenage girl who then got pregnant without ever having had sex and traveled on horseback to Bethlehem where she spent the night in a barn and had a baby who turned out to be the Saviour of the world.” How do we celebrate an event like that?

In order to make Christmas more meaningful, some like to feed the homeless which is a good thing to do, though I don't actually see Jesus as being homeless or even poor. He slept in a barn because there was no room in the inn not because his parents had no money. By the time the Magi arrived he was living in a house (Matthew 2:11).

Mary and Joseph only brought a pair of pigeons to the purification ceremony but their finances would have been strained. They had just married in difficult circumstances, they had to make an unexpected and slow trip to Bethlehem, and the temple charged exorbitant prices. It is true that the family lived in an oppressed country with heavy taxes but it also seems that Joseph owned his own carpentry business.

If we think of Jesus as “homeless” or “poor” it removes him from our circumstances. We take away from his incarnation and his identification with us when we try to make out that Jesus was different to us.

How do we celebrate Christmas? By celebrating the relationship we now have with Jesus and rejoicing that he was prepared to be just like us.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Book Review : Jesus Take the Wheel ch.7

Chapter Seven: Key #6 Stop clinging to the steering wheel—cling to God

How easy it is to become distracted from our focus on God and look to other things to meet our needs. However clinging to God and relying on Him to meet our needs, whatever the circumstances, will lead to peace. Again Migdon turns to the example of Moses who learnt to cling to God in difficult times as well as seeking a closer relationship with him in the easier times. Migdon also looks at Hezekiah who grew up in a godless society yet chose to follow God’s ways and turned the nation back to God.

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Book Review : Living Apocalypse

I found, Living apocalypse : a Revelation reader and a guide for the perplexed by Gregory Laughery (Destinee S.A., 2008) to be a very helpful study of the book of Revelation. It is only short (200 pages) yet gives a good overview of the book, highlighting the major events and teaching. I particularly enjoyed Laughery’s knowledge of Old Testament prophecy and other Old Testament references that he brought to the reader’s attention. These references were connected to the various aspects of John's vision and obviously influenced John a great deal as he wrote.

I appreciated Laughery lack of dogma. Much of the teaching in Revelation is presented in symbolic imagery which is not easy to understand and therefore I think it is important we are not rigid in our beliefs about Christ’s second coming. Laughery presented various points of view concerning “end time” events as well as his own without being critical of those who differ.

Being a complex subject I found it helpful that Laughery included many “general reviews” along the way. These provided some respite from the heaviness of the topic and a refresher of the material already covered.

I plan to study Revelation at the Bible Study Place next year and plan to use this book as a resource.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Devotional Thought : Matthew 25:30

“And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 25:30

It is interesting to compare the parable of the prodigal son and this parable of the talents. Whereas the younger son received no rebuke for wasting his father's inheritance on wild living, the man who had buried his talent received what we would think is an unusually severe rebuke. We would be more inclined to be compassionate with this man as he hadn't done anything illegal, immoral, or unethical. The church may applaud people who avoid wrong doing but the absence of wrong is not enough to earn God's approval.

The parable suggests his master would have been satisfied with even a small return, just interest, so there was no sign he was a “hard man”. The servant's laziness suggests he actually thought his master was “soft”. He expected his master to be lenient and let him get away with his inaction. This parable has worrying implications for those who think they will go to heaven because they haven’t done anything particularly “bad”.

When confronted with the incredible holiness of God, we realize we have greatly underestimated God's standards. People who think good people go to heaven have no understanding of how holy God is and have reduced God to a mere teacher who “grades on a curve”. A teacher who “grades on a curve” reduces the pass mark to enable a set number of students to pass which means students’ results are graded against each other and not against a predetermined standard.

God does not reduce his standards in order for us to “pass”; rather we “pass” by receiving Christ's forgiveness. The younger son received his father’s robe, ring, and sandals and in doing so accepted his father’s forgiveness.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Abraham Lincoln

Some time ago I wrote about the time Abraham Lincoln freed a slave girl. At the time some of my American friends told me they had never heard this story. It appears today in the daily devotional, The Word for Today, albeit briefly, in the last paragraph. Just so you know I'm not making it up! Here's the
link.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Book Review : Jesus Take the Wheel ch.6

Chapter Six: Key #5 When the four car pile-up happens—peace in the trials

In this chapter Migdon looks at the trials Jesus faced during his three years of ministry. His family and friends at Nazareth tried to throw him off a cliff; the Pharisees were hostile; others called him a glutton and a drunk and demon possessed; many refused to listen to him. However through all these trials and others—the temptation in the wilderness; Gethsemane; Peter’s denial and Judas’ betrayal—Jesus focussed on God. Knowing that Jesus has been though many of our trials, is a great encouragement to us and we can use our experiences to encourage others.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Devotional Thought : 1 John 3:1

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us" 1 John 3:1.

As a child I watched "I Dream of Jeannie". Larry Hagman played Major Nelson who found a genie that could grant wishes with the blink of an eye. Nelson could have wished for material possessions, riches, fame yet he chose not to. Whereas his friend, Major Healey tried to make the most of the opportunity. By the time the series ended Nelson and Jeannie have fallen in love and married but Jeannie knew he loved her for who she was, not what she could do for him.

Jesus could be a magic genie to us, God has the power to grant any of our wishes even to the extent of riches and fame, like He did for Solomon. But God wants us to love Him for Himself and not what He can do.

Yancey writes, "I believe that God insists on such restraint because no pyrotechnic displays of omnipotence will achieve the response he desires. Although power can force obedience, only love can summon a response of love, which is the one thing God wants from us and the reason he created us."

A God who makes our lives comfortable and easy may have many followers but would we really love Him? Would we even bother to develop a relationship with Him? Our free will is very important to God, so He woos us, not overwhelming us with His power—never manipulating or domineering us, never using coercion or bribery. It is not only easy for the non-Christian to ignore and reject Jesus, it is also easy for the Christian to ignore Jesus in their daily lives.

Yet surely this is how we wanted to be loved. Appreciated for what we do but loved for who we are.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Synchroblog : "…and here’s a photo of one I made earlier."

Photos are wonderful things. My parents are coming to stay over Christmas, (we may not be here when they arrive,) and they wanted to know how big our fridge was. So I took a photo, downloaded it to my computer and sent it in an email. They live about 500 miles away and in a blink of an eye I can show them my fridge!

Darkness and light are like photographs we use to explain spiritual truths. They are tangible concepts we understand. We know what it is like when there are power cuts at night. We know the effect of one small candle in a room full of darkness. Light is so powerful that during the black outs in England in World War II it was even forbidden to smoke outdoors at night. Since a pilot flying overhead could see the light from a lone cigarette. When we want to explain spiritual truth we turn to the concepts of darkness and light, like we would show a photo to portray what something looks like.

As I was thinking about darkness and light I remembered this conversation between a professor and a student (apparently, Albert Einstein). It did the rounds on the internet a while ago:

“Does cold exist?”
“Of course”, answered the professor. “Did you never feel cold?”
“Actually, sir, cold does not exist. According to studies in Physics, cold is the total and complete absence of heat. An object can only be studied if it has and transmits energy and it is the heat of an object that transmits its energy. Without heat, the objects are inert, incapable to react. But cold does not exist. We created the term cold to explain the lack of heat.”
“And darkness?” continues the student.
“It exists”, replied the professor.
“Again, you’re wrong sir, darkness is the total absence of light. You can study light and brightness, but not darkness. The prism of Nichols shows the variety of different colours in which the light can be decomposed according to the longitude of the waves. Darkness is the term we created to explain the total absence of light.”
And finally, the student asked, “And evil, sir, does evil exist? God did not create evil. Evil is the absence of God in people’s hearts, it is the absence of love, humanity and faith. Love and faith are like heat and light. They exist. Their absence leads to evil.”

Paul writes, “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life (Philippians 2:14-16). God’s desire is for us to be like stars shining against the darkness, obvious to all those around us that we are Christians. Jesus said, “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5). But he also told his disciples, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). We now have the responsibility of being light to the world—bringing love and faith where there is none.

This post is part of a synchroblog on the topic: Darkness and light as spiritual motifs. You can read posts from other synchrobloggers by click on the links:

Susan Barnes at ...and here's a photo of one I made earlier
Phil Wyman finds Darkness: a Thin Place for the Soul
Adam Gonnerman on being "In Darkness"
Lainie Petersen at Headspace
Jeff Goins is "Walking in the Light with Jesus"
Ellen Haroutunian finds Holy Darkness
Bethany Stedman thinks Light is Coming
Julie Clawson walks through Darkness and Light
Kathy Escobar will Take a Sliver Anyday
Joe Miller thinks you can Discover Light in Darkness
Beth Patterson talks about Advent: Awaiting the Ancient and the Ever New
Liz Dyer says What the Heck
Sally Coleman muses about Light into Darkness
Steve Hayes with the Lord of the Dark
Josh Jinno with Spiritual Motifs of Darkness and Light
KW Leslie contrasts Darkness versus blackness
Erin Word writes Fire and Sacrifice

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Book Review : Jesus Take the Wheel ch.5

Chapter Five: Key #4 Rely on your driver—trust, acknowledge, and rely on God

When Moses was faced with the Red Sea in front of him and the Egyptians behind him, he chose to trust God. God orchestrated this difficult situation to reveal His glory. Moses encouraged others in giving God the glory for their deliverance from the Egyptians and thereby focussing the attention on God and not on himself. In this chapter Migdon encourages us to trust God in difficult situations and rely on His perfect plan. Remembering our faith in God will also positively affect others.

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Saturday, December 06, 2008

Book Review : A proper pursuit

A proper pursuit by Lynn Austin (Bethany House, 2007) is a very entertaining book and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It is the story of a young woman, Violet, who had recently finished her education at a School for Young Ladies and returns home to find her father announcing his engagement. Violet was unaware her father had divorced her mother some years earlier, after her mother had left them when Violet was nine. Violet is shocked and immediately resolves to go to Chicago to find her mother. Violet’s grandmother and great aunts live in Chicago and at this time, 1893, the World’s Columbian Exposition was being held in Chicago. It is on this pretext Violet is able to stay with her relatives. However Violet’s grandmother and three sisters all have their own agendas for Violet.

Violet’s grandmother works for various charitable projects in the slum areas of Chicago and encourages Violet’s involvement. One of Violet’s great aunts takes her visiting in the hope she will find a husband amongst the rich elite. Another aunt, a single lady, hopes to get Violet involved in the Suffrages. The third aunt, who suffers a little from dementia, tells her to make sure she marries for love. Violet must make a decision about where her future lies.

Lynn Austin has done a great job of writing a subtly Christian novel. A proper pursuit is neither preachy nor predictable yet it contains a clear challenge to follow God’s ways.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Devotional Thought : Revelation 21:22

I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. Revelation 21:22

I’m sure there are many looking forward to the day when there is no longer a temple—no longer an institutional church. For while churches are intended to be communities of healing and restoration, they can also be places that cause great pain. Christians have often been accused of “shooting their own wounded.” So what was God thinking?

God created us for fellowship with Himself and with one another. He wants us to grow in love and patience as we learn to share with a wide variety of people. People who we wouldn’t volunteer to spend time with, people whose perspectives are wildly different from ours, and people we may not even like. It is still God’s intention that “they (believers) may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me (Jesus)…” (John 17:23).

In Luke 4:16 we read Jesus went to Nazareth “...and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom". While his sermon made them furious v.28 there is no indication that he tried to change the synagogue procedure. There is no ideal church model. Jesus desire is, however, to change his people so that they become “a radiant church without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:27).

From the writings of Ezra Taft Benson:
"The Lord works from the inside out.
The world works from the outside in…
The world would mold men by changing their environment.
Christ changes men, who then change their environment..."

God is in the business of changing us from the inside out until the day when there is no longer any need for a temple.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Book Review : Jesus Take the Wheel ch.4

Chapter Four: Key #3 Listen to Your Navigation System—listen and follow God’s Direction

Obedience to God sounds somewhat negative to our modern ears yet obedience to God is simply following guidance from the wisest Counsellor who has our best interests at heart. Migdon shows us through the life of Moses how God used the ten plagues in Egypt to teach Moses obedience and strengthen his faith. God doesn’t expect perfection from us and we will make mistakes. However Jesus is able to help us and strengthen us as we seek to follow God’s direction.

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