Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Devotional Thought : Revelation 5:4

I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Revelation 5:4

Jesus was the only one worthy to open the scroll and yet when he does it unleashes such waves of destructions (chapter 6), that we may wonder why it needed to be opened at all. Yet opening the seals ushers in the events that lead to the culmination of world history. John weeps because if the seals were not opened we would remain stuck, caught forever between the “now” and the “not yet” (1 John 3:2).

Knowing there are difficult times ahead is like having a baby. Jesus said, “a woman giving birth to a child has pain because the time has come, but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world” (John 16:21). One day we will experience such joy in heaven that we will forget the anguish we experienced here on earth.

I think it was Selwyn Hughes who made the comment - the most tragic life from a human perspective will seem like one night in a bad hotel from heaven's perspective. Of course this doesn’t mean we should not try to alleviate suffering and help those in need. But it does mean we are never overwhelmed since we know "… this world in its present form is passing away" (1 Corinthians 7:31).

We can only make sense of destruction and devastation if we take the long term view. The book of Revelation makes it clear that God is on the throne and controlling world events. We can trust God even when bad things happen because there is a new day coming when, “he will wipe every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 21:4).

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Keeping a diary

When Phyllis Beattie spoke at my library the other night (see here) one of the most interesting things she said in relation to keeping a diary was she always writes in the morning. Phyllis felt that this gave her time to reflect on the previous day's events and how those events had affected her, before she actually wrote them down. I found this quite fascinating. Somehow I had always assumed if one was going to keep a diary one must write it at the end of the day. Here was the number one reason why diary keeping had always been so difficult for me and probably for many others as well. By the end of the day I was too tired to write down any thoughts on paper, particularly any intelligent ones! Writing in the morning makes so much more sense. It's amazing how we make illogical assumations and it's not until someone points out an alternative we suddenly think, why didn't I think of that!

Just on a housekeeping note I decided to add an extra couple of items to my sidebar: My Most Significant Posts and My Funniest Posts so anyone that's new to this blog can get read a few posts and get a feel for what happens around here.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Author Visit

From time to time libraries arrange author visits to heighten the profile of the library and encourage its usage. I was pleased to be able to arrange an evening at my library where Phyllis Beattie came and spoke about how she turned her diary entries from her trip to Africa into a book called, The Road to Malambanyama. I have written a book review about the book which can be found here. It was a lovely evening and Phyllis spoke not only about her book but also more generally about her time in Africa. It was the first “author visit” I have arranged and I was pleased it went well.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Devotional Thought : Revelation 4:2

At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. Revelation 4:2

The Message puts v.2 like this: "I was caught up at once in deep worship and, oh! a Throne set in heaven with One seated on the Throne,..."

This is what worship does, it connects us with the One seated on the Throne and reminds us who really has the ultimate power and authority.

We worship, not because God needs it, but because we need it. God doesn’t need us tell him, he is good, he is worthy, he is holy. God is not in need of reassurance of his divine power and goodness but we are. We are distracted by a thousand thoughts bombarding our minds every day causing us to forget there is something bigger and better going on in the spiritual world. So we worship in order to remind ourselves of spiritual realities, to remind ourselves of the One who is on the throne. Whether we sing or pray or simply talk about God’s attributes, we move the attention off ourselves and onto God who has everything under control.

When we have a strong awareness of the almightiness of God we can trust him to work out the details of our lives. If we are not sure if God is strong enough or loving enough to handle our difficulties we will find it impossible to trust him. Worship helps us to ‘see’ with our spiritual eyes that God is indeed all powerful, all knowing and ever present.

We worship to stop focusing on our world, our issues, our needs, and focus on God who is high and lifted up and seated on the throne.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Book Review : The Christ Files

John Dickson’s purpose in writing The Christ files : how historians know what they know about Jesus by John Dickson (Blue Bottle Books, 2005) is to explain how historians discover evidence about Jesus’ life and how it was recorded in what we know as the New Testament. From there Dickson is able to point out how reliable the New Testament is in the sight of mainstream academic historians, regardless of their faith or lack of it. Most Christians don’t realize the bulk of historical evidence supporting the authenticity of the books that make up the New Testament. Many academics who would not profess Christian faith nevertheless regard The New Testament as a reliable history of the time and believe the contents have been faithfully recorded from what was common knowledge. This means incidents have not been added later nor were they an exaggeration of well known events.

Dickson also points out whereas in some other religions they believe their holy books were written down verbatim as God spoke it, Christians believe the Bible is God inspired rather than God dictated. This makes an enormous different. It means it is worthwhile understanding something about the people who wrote the books of the New Testament, the context and the circumstances of why they wrote it because this has influenced the content. Most of the New Testament letters provided these details or they can be discovered from other sources.

For those wanting to do further study Dickson provides a wealth of footnotes and references. However I personally found the information Dickson provided enough to satisfy my interests.

A DVD set has also been created which contains much of the material in The Christ files. The first DVD is four half hour episodes which have been screened on TV. A second DVD contains the more lengthy interviews with the various authorities that John Dickson consulted.

A very worthwhile addition to the study of apologetics.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Thursday, March 19, 2009

My longest read

On Tuesday I flew to Sydney for the day for a training seminar. This meant getting up very early and getting home fairly late. I went to a similar training seminar last year. On that occasion the plane was delayed by several hours. I had not bothered taking anything to read as I had planned to sleep on the plane! So finding myself stuck at the airport for several hours with nothing to do, I did the most obvious thing. I bought a book! It was called, The Tipping Point : how little things can make a big difference by Malcolm Gladwell. I had read a previous book of Gladwell’s, Blink : the power of thinking without thinking and found it very interesting. The Tipping Point however was a more complex read than Blink and I found when I eventually returned home that I needed to take a break from it. I had been meaning for some time to pick it up again and on Tuesday I had the opportunity. I have now nearly completed it. I had been using the cash resister receipt as a book mark and I was quite surprised to discover that it was actually April last year when I bought the book which I think would mean it is the longest I have ever taken to read a book!

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Devotional Thought : Revelation 3:17

You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.
Revelation 3:17

This verse from Revelation is addressed to the wealthy city of Laodicea. It was known for its banks, its wool and textile industry and its medical school which developed ointments, including an eye salve. In the following verse God instructs them, “to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.” God’s message to them is personally addressed to their situation. Even v.16 “So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold”, is a reference to Laodicea’s lack of fresh water.

Sometimes the personal nature of God’s messages can catch us off guard. How accurately he can put his finger of conviction or challenge or comfort on our exact area of need. He can reduce us to tears in a moment. A God “watching from a distance” would be far less threatening. It is unnerving to have someone so interested in us, someone from whom we cannot hide.

When God sent his son into the world he said, “they will call him Immanuel—which means, ‘God with us’” (Matthew 1:23). God put skin on, you can’t get more personal than that. It brings us face to face with a God who demonstrates His intimate involvement with his creation and his intense desire to connect with us. It shatters any comfortable ideas of God being remote or inaccessible. It ruins any idea God is disinterested or aloof.

God is not “watching from a distance”, he is “up close and personal”.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Book Review : A woman's place

A Woman’s Place by Lynn Austin (Bethany House, 2006) is the story of four women whose lives become unexpectedly intertwined when the Japanese attack Pearl Harbour in December 1941. With American men suddenly involved in the war there is a shortage of employees at the shipyards in Stockton and our four main characters find themselves as co-workers.

Virginia is a housewife and mother of two school age boys who no longer feels needed at home. Working at the shipyards and helping the war effort gives her life a purpose and meaning.

Helen is a single woman and a school teacher who resigned to look after her parents who have now past away. She is suddenly left with too much time on her hands. However she has to wait for the commencement of the school year to rejoin the teaching staff so in the meantime she takes a position at the shipyards.

Rosa is recently married after a whirlwind romance and is now staying with her in-laws until her husband returns from the war. However her in-laws have a vastly different life style to what Rosa is accustom to and desperately needs something to do to keep out of their way.

Jean is building up her funds to go to college with her twin brother after the war. She is also helping her sister and children while her husband is away in the services. She has a boyfriend back in her home town but wonders if he really shares her hopes and dreams.

A Woman’s Place has a stronger Christian content than, A Proper Pursuit, but this is still handled well. Lynn Austin has created four very different, but believable, women who find friendship in an undesirable situation. Through the remainder of the war they share joy and tears in a moving and enjoyable tale.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Devotional Thought : Revelation 2:21

“I have given her (Jezebel) time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling.” Revelation 2:21

Jezebel in the Old Testament was a particularly evil woman. She liked to kill the Lord’s prophets (1 Kings 18:4). In the letter to the church at Thyatira contained in Revelation 2, we are told there was someone leading the church astray who is referred to as Jezebel. This probably wasn’t their real name but rather a description of their behaviour. Interestingly enough the Lord says, "I have given her time to repent". Even someone as evil as Jezebel is given time to repent. Nevertheless if she doesn't repent consequences will follow.

From a human perspective we often struggle to know how to respond to a “Jezebel”. Sometimes we give them no time to repent or we give them too much time and never call them to account. At such times, more than ever, we need to rely on God’s guidance and direction.

However perhaps the main point here is how amazingly gracious God is. We see it over and over again in the Bible, even in the Old Testament. God said he would not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah if he could find only 10 righteous people (Genesis 18:32). God sent Jonah to Ninevah, a brutal and violent people, saying “should I not have concern for the great city Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people” (Jonah 4:11). And most shockingly of all, the story of Hosea, who God told to buy back his prostitute wife to be a living example to Israel of how much God loves his people. Do we really appreciate the depths of God’s forgiveness to those who seek it?

God always gives us time to repent but we do need to respond.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Synchroblog : International Women's Day

The woman I admire most in the Bible is Tamar. She was one gutsy lady. She put her reputation and her very life on the line in order to fulfill the purposes of God.

God had divided up the land amongst the tribes of Israel. The land was always to stay within the tribe and passed down family lines. They were stewards of the land God gave them. It was a great tragedy if there was no one to continue a family line and everything possible must be done to ensure the continuation. When Tamar was widowed, Judah told his next son Onan to marry Tamar in order to continue the family line. Although Onan slept with her he refused to allow her to conceive (Genesis 38:9). God obviously took this very seriously because He put him to death. When Judah did not allow Tamar to marry his next son she decided something must be done to fulfill God’s purposes. She dressed up as a prostitute and tricked Judah into having sex with her. Tamar must have known there was an excellence chance of falling pregnant at that time and she did. When Judah discovered she was pregnant he was going to have her execute until she proved he was the father. All of a sudden the death penalty included him and not surprisingly he no longer thought it was a good idea!

God vindicated Tamar not only did she have a son, but she had two, Perez and Zerah. Tamar is highly regarded by the Jews which may strike us as strange; I mean having sex with your father-in-law is rather unsavory to say the least. However she is honoured because she sacrifices her wishes in order to preserve her husband's family line and his inheritance which was seen as fulfilling God’s purposes.

The second lady I admire is Ruth who did a similar thing. She left her family and set aside her Moabite heritage and customs. She committed herself to Naomi and Naomi’s God. Following Jewish custom she went to Boaz (a relative of her dead husband) at night and lay at his feet to signal she was available for marriage (Ruth 3:7). She risked her reputation in order to continue her husband’s line. Boaz, being a man of good character did not take advantage of her.

Similarly Mary, Jesus’ mother, laid her reputation on the line when she said to the angel, “May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38) agreeing to be pregnant and unmarried which was totally unacceptable in that culture.

These three women Tamar, Ruth and Mary show a level of commitment that is rare. They are honoured by being included in Jesus’ ancestry line (Matthew 1:3, 5, and 16).

Today we may consider ourselves fortunate that God’s purposes don’t usually involve marrying in order to perpetuate a family line. However we can still emulate their faith, perseverance and ingenuity.

This is my contribution to this month's synchroblog about Biblical Women or Women of Faith.

I've been a bit slow adding these links (internet problems); but here are the links to other blogger's contributions:

Julie Clawson on the God who sees
Steve Hayes on St. Theodora the Iconodule
Sonja Andrews on Aunt Jemima
Sensuous Wife on a single mom in the Bible
Minnowspeaks on celebrating women
Michelle Van Loon on the persistant widow
Lyn Hallewell on women who walked with God
Heather on the strength of biblical women
Shawna Atteberry on the Daughter of Mary Magdalene
Christine Sine on women who impacted her life
Susan Barnes on Tamar, Ruth, and Mary
Kathy Escobar on standing up for nameless and voiceless women
Ellen Haroutunian on out from under the veil
Liz Dyer on Mary and Martha
Bethany Stedman on Shiphrah and Puah
Dan Brennan on Mary Magdalene
Jessica Schafer on Bathsheba
Eugene Cho on Lydia
Laura sorts through what she knows about women in the Bible
Miz Melly preached on the woman at the well
AJ Schwanz on women's work
Pam Hogeweide on teenage girls changing the world
Teresa on the women Paul didn't hate
Helen on Esther
Happy on Abigail
Mark Baker-Wright on telling stories
Robin M. on Eve
Alan Knox is thankful for the women who served God
Lainie Petersen on the unnamed concubine
Mike Clawson on cultural norms in the early church
Krista on serving God
Bob Carlton on Barbie as Icon
Jan Edmiston preached on the unnamed concubine
Deb on her namesake - Deborah
Makeesha on empowering women
Beth Patterson on the The Whole Megillah Revisited

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Idolizing Preachers

There have been conversations in various parts of cyperspace about the expectations of full time pastors as opposed to lay ministries. I wrote a little about it myself in this post. Today, in Every Day With Jesus, the devotion finished with a prayer. It highlights one of the problems the church faces in this regard, that of idolizing pastors, ministers, bishops, preachers... (whatever you would like to call them). This is the prayer:

O God forgive us that we tend to make idols of our preachers and teachers. And save them from finding their identity in such things as status and prestige instead of in You. Help us dear Father. In Jesus' name. Amen

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Book Review : The dream giver

The dream giver (Multnomah Publishers, 2003) by Bruce Wilkinson is an encouraging read. In the first half of the book Wilkinson tells an allegorical story, much like Pilgrim’s Progress, his story is about Ordinary, a Nobody who leaves the Land of Familiar to pursue his Big Dream. This allegorical story introduces the ideas which he elaborates in the second half of the book.

Wilkinson’s main aim in writing this book is to emphasis the fact that God has made us all special by giving us our own combination of dreams and talents to fulfill God’s purpose for our lives. He points out the many difficulties that hinder us from following our God given dreams and encourages his readers to press on despite the disappointments and discouragements along the way.

During the first half of the book, Wilkinson concludes each chapter with Ordinary’s journal notes of lessons he learns on the journey. This is an effective way of summarizing the major points of the chapter and subtly reminding the reader of changes they need to make in their own life. In the second half of the book, Wilkinson tells stories from his own life and others to highlight his message.

I thoroughly enjoyed this short book and feel inspired to keep my own dreams alive.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Devotional Thought : Isaiah 66:12-13

I wrote this a while ago, when my children were quite young. This week seemed like a good time to revisit this thought.

"For this is what the Lord says: ... As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you..." Isaiah 66:12-13

One of the blessings of motherhood for me, is that I've learnt more of what it means to be a child of God through having my own children. I wanted to be the kind of mother who always took time to answer her children's questions. Very quickly I made an interesting discovery. Children are big enough to ask the questions, long before they are big enough to understand the answers. Sometimes I was disappointed that I couldn't always explain things in ways they could understand, but I noticed that it didn't bother them. They accepted the fact that there were things that they didn't understand.

At those times I stop and wonder if God has the same problem with me. I'm big enough to ask God questions, especially "why" questions. Why did this happen today? Why do I struggle with these problems? Why do people suffer? But perhaps I'm not big enough to understand His answers. Isaiah 55: 8-9 tells me that God's thoughts are higher than my thoughts and His ways are higher than my ways.

When I struggle to understand God's purposes in my life I need to believe that God is good, He is in charge and He knows what He is doing, then I need to trust Him; just like my children trust me.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo