Saturday, May 30, 2009

How angry are we?

I was reading an article by Brendan Gullifer, entitled: Writers of wrath. He had heard Stephen King speak and was reflecting on King’s answer to the question of what motivates him to continue writing. King had said, “writing was and still is a revolutionary act. It was a way to metaphorically smash his fist in the air, his shout to the world.” Gullifer went on to say he loves angry writers and gave several examples. Then said, “So when I read angry fiction, I know I am not alone.”

It makes me think there is a lot of anger around—violence crimes, road rage, even anorexia has been described as “a silent rebellion”. If a fiction writer taps into the anger he has an audience that relates.

It is what I am trying to do with my non-fiction book because I suspect a lot of people are angry with God. Not that they would say so. It comes out in other ways disillusionment, atheism, verbal and physical attacks on Christians (or churches) etc.

God however, is like the parent of a 3 year old. There have been occasions in my child rearing days that I have been confronted with 3 year old telling me with great authority what I should be doing. I found it amusing. I wonder if God finds it amusing when his children tell him with great authority what he should be doing! Or perhaps the 3 year old is stamping their foot and complaining about the world shattering unfairness of not being able to have another cookie, or another turn on the slide, or another hour of television. It is still amusing that 3 year olds can be so self deceived about the importance of their request, but perhaps not quite so amusing when we are the 3 year old and God is the parent. Our requests may appear more important than the 3 year olds yet they may still be self-serving, comfort inducing requests. Yet we too, may express a lot of anger when we don’t get our own way.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this thought. Just wanted to put it out there and ponder it for a while.

Next post: Devotional Thought : Revelation 14:4

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Book Review : The Noticer

Andy Andrews is the author of an upbeat tale called, The Noticer (Thomas Nelson, 2009). It is the story of an old man named, Jones, who turns up unexpectedly to dispense wholesome advice to people in distress. His ability to know people’s names and situations as well as his ability to appear seemingly out of nowhere and leave without trace hints at angel-like qualities.

While this is an enjoyable read, it is too shallow for my taste. The people Jones meets are often struggling with deep issues and for Jones to turn their lives around so quickly and easily is stretching the otherwise realistic feel to the story. Encouraging people to see their lives from a broader perspective does not, in itself, heal emotional traumas. And even when people know what they need to do, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are equipped to do it.

Jones occasionally mentions God but never Jesus, his saving grace or his enabling power. I found this worrying as it suggests our own resources are sufficient. So while the book contains many wise sayings, and implies a Christian message it actually does not promote Christian beliefs, but perhaps Andrews never intended it to do so.

I read this book as a member of Thomas Nelson's Book Review Blogger Program found here.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Devotional Thought : Revelation 13:10

This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints. Revelation 13:10

Here and in the next chapter (14:12) we find the expression: “patient endurance”. It also appears in the first chapter (v.9) where John tells us that “patient endurance” is ours in Jesus. It is not something we have to create but rather something we receive from Jesus.

I was listening to a speaker recently and she made the comment that if we had known her as a child we would realize where she is today is a miracle. Now she is a well-known speaker addressing hundreds of people but her childhood was traumatic. Over the years God healed her of many emotional wounds, which in time brought about changes to her circumstances. So this was not an instant miracle but rather a slow difficult journey with many highs and lows. A journey that called for “patient endurance”.

The people who John wrote to in the book of Revelation were facing physical persecution and possibly death. They desperately needed patient endurance. Jesus wants to give us all that kind of staying power whatever we are facing on our spiritual journey. It is a quality that we will need if we are going to be the people he wants us to be and it will produce miracles. Not instantaneous changes in our health or life but slow gradual growth so we reach the potential God has planted in us.

When we looked back on our lives, we will see that through receiving his patient endurance our lives are miracles because we could not have become the person we are now in our own strength. Receiving God’s patient endurance requires us to trust God and to open our hearts to receive.

Next Post: Book Review: The Noticer

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Library week starts on Monday

From the Australian Library and Information Association web site:

In May every year, libraries and information services throughout Australia celebrate Library and Information Week and highlight the vital role and value of libraries. This year’s theme – Libraries: your passport to discovery – highlights the self-directed discovery element of libraries and celebrates libraries as the place to access, communicate, connect, educate, entertain and inform. Libraries connect people to ideas. It's a vital part of our commitment to promoting the free flow of information and facilitating all Australians' access to recorded knowledge, information, and creative works.

Generally speaking libraries are under utilized. Part of the reason is because librarians (myself included) are not very good at publicity. Most librarians are introverts so they don’t do well at advertising all they have to offer. (When I worked at a university library I always found morning tea quite amusing. It was so quiet compared to other places I had worked. Generally though, there would be one poor extravert engaging in an uphill battle to get a conversation going!)

So this is my plug for libraries everywhere. They are not only great places to find information but also to find some space that’s not bustling with activity. During the horrendous bush fires three months ago, librarians found people would wonder into the local library – if it was still standing – for some time out. The evacuation centres were so hectic people found libraries to be a refuge. Libraries are also a refuge to young people from chaotic homes and older people who need a place to wait for appointments. Librarians are also a great resource for learning more about the internet, email and online resources. Generally they are also good at trouble shooting basic computer difficulties. So visit your local library today!

Next post: Devotional Thought : Revelation 13:10

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Book Review : Until we reach home

Until we reach home (Bethany House, 2008) is the story of three orphaned sisters who were born in Sweden and immigrate to the US in 1897. The book covers about a six month period starting with the reasons they are leaving, the journey from their home town in Sweden to Chicago, and then adjusting to a new culture which is quite different from what they had been told. The story provides interesting insights into what it feels like to be a refugee in a foreign land. Their hopes and expectations are dashed many times by the lack of resources and misinformation. Through it all the author, Lynn Austin, is able to portray the role of faith in God through difficult times. She shows how God works in situations like those the girls find themselves in, and how He can bring about ultimate blessing when it seems impossible.

I find Lynn Austin to be a very clever author because her story lines are not predictable. She is able to create believable characters in realistic situations and present Christian truths all at the same time.

I particularly like Austin’s opening line to this story which initially I thought was going to be too dramatic but turned out to be perfectly true: Elin Carlson walked into the barn and everything changed.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Devotional Thought : Revelation 12:17

Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus. Revelation 12:17

We are in a war! When I first started reading the Old Testament, I wondered why God’s people were involved in so much fighting. Later on I came to realize much of the Old Testament is a shadow of what was to come in the New Testament. Today there are also many battles but they are spiritual.

Peter tells us the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). It is a thought-provoking analogy since lions on the prowl do not roar. They want to surprise their prey, therefore they keep silent. It suggests the devil’s weapons are just a lot of noise. He uses accusations, condemnation, and intimidation but he has to ask God’s permission before he can do anything (Job 1&2; Luke 22:31). While we may think making a lot of noise is not effective, we only have to look around for earthly examples of how leaders use intimidation to get their own way. Many, many times I have seen people completely cave in to someone who presents their arguments in a domineering and forceful way. Other times people have been overwhelmed by a barrage of negative and critical comments. Spiritually this happens too. Satan will try to intimidated us or overwhelm us with a negative barrage of thoughts. Our defense is in believing what God says about us. We are God’s children, forgiven and dearly loved. We are heirs, saints, and righteous (Galatians 4:7; Ephesians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Yes, we are in a war but we can win this war by believing the truth of God’s word.

Next post: Book Review: Until we reach home

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

My kingdom goes

If God has a kingdom that means he is a king. Since the Son is the exact representation of God (Hebrews 1:3), Jesus is our King.

I remember reading someone’s response to Jesus’ Kingship which went something like this: “I don’t mind Jesus being King as long as I’m Prime Minister”. But Jesus is not a ceremonial King—He is Lord, the Ruler, the one in charge. The word for Lord in the Greek is the same word as the word owner. Jesus is our Owner as Paul reminds us, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). It is a hard concept to accept. If we claim Jesus is Lord of our lives it means we abdicated and submit to Jesus the King. We surrendered the ruling of our lives to Jesus and we do so in response to his great sacrificial love for us. Jesus could rightfully claim his ownership of our lives but he has given us the choice because true love doesn’t coerce.

Since Jesus is King he has plans, a timetable and an agenda which will bring about God’s purposes. However his plans are not like my plans. My plans are small, short term, stress relieving plans design to make my life more comfortable whereas God’s plans are to restore, redeem and to recreate the world. My comfort is not high on God’s agenda! Our culture encourages us to focus on achieving those things which will add to our own kingdom, things which will add to our comfort and pleasure. We are not accustomed to putting these aside for someone else’s kingdom. However God wants me to grow more Christ-like, even if I just want a quiet life. No wonder I don’t always like God’s agenda. However God’s purposes are not thwarted by my lack of interest. He continues to work in my life bringing people and situations across my path designed to shape me into the person he wants me to be.

Jesus taught us to pray, “your kingdom come”, but do we realize in so doing we are asking for our kingdoms to go?

This is part of a synchroblog about the kingdom of God. Links to other blogs on this subject are here:

Jeff Goins (Non-denominational Christian) of Pilgrimage of the Heart on The Kingdom of God: Now and Not Yet

Beth Patterson (Non churched follower of Christ) of Virtual Tea House on What it’s like rather than what it is

Timothy Victor (Christian) of Tim Victor's Musings on The
reign of Godde

Nic Paton (fundamentalist, charismatic, liberationist, apophatic,
heterodox) of soundandsilence on The "Kingdom": of God

Bryan Riley (nondenominational follower of Jesus and YWAMer) of Charis Shalom on Multiple Bloggers on the Kingdom of God

Liz Dyer (follower of Jesus Christ) on Grace Rules The Kingdom of God is at Hand

Matt Stone (Christian) on Glocal Christianity The only Christian nation is the Kingdom of God

Phil Wyman (Non-denominational Christian) of Square no more on Jesus as the Archetype Shaman(Part 2): A Nostalgia for Paradise

Stephen Hayes (Orthodox Christian) of Khanya on Kingdom, power and glory

Ronald van der Bergh (Dutch Reformed) of Ronalds Footnotes on Notes on "the Kingdom of God" in the New Testament

Susan Barnes (Christian currently attending a Baptist church) of
Abooklook on My kingdom goes

and two more:
Andrew Hendrikse (Christian) of Feotu on "The Kingdom of God is..."

K.W. Leslie (Christian/Pentecostal/Assemblies of God) of The Evening of Kent on Politics and the Kingdom of God

and a really late one:
Ellen Haroutunian (Follower of Jesus) of Ellen Haroutunian on Thoughts on the Kingdom

Next post: Devotional Thought : Revelation 12:17

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Book Review: Same kind of different as me

Same kind of different as me (Thomas Nelson, 2008) is a true story written by Ron Hall and Denver Moore. The book is written in two voices and begins with each man explaining the circumstances which brought him to the place where they met the other. Once they meet this format becomes particularly interesting as we hear the same situation described from two different perspectives. Encouraged by Ron’s wife, Debbie, the two men strike up a surprising friendship. Ron is a wealthy white man who had earned his wealth honestly through long hours in the art business. Denver is a homeless black man who grew up in poverty, hardship and much tragedy. Both men explain the influences that shaped their thinking. Even as an Australian reader who is not overly familiar with American history, it was still clear that culture and racial prejudice has greatly impacted each man.

The interweaving of the two voices continues throughout the book as their friendship develops into a source of healing and comfort to them both. Also apparent, though sometimes unstated, is the way God is orchestrating the circumstances to bring about his purposes.

Overall this is a moving account of a deep friendship forged by God to powerfully demonstrate the power of love and forgiveness.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Devotional Thought : Revelation 11:15

The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah and he will reign for ever and ever. Revelation 11:15

Here is the answer to our prayer, Your kingdom come (Matthew 6:10). One day God’s invisible Kingdom will become God’s visible Kingdom and it will be forever.

The word, kingdom, is defined as an organized community headed by a king or queen; territory subject to a king; spiritual reign of God (Oxford Dictionary). Christ is our King and his territory is everywhere, even though it is not visible yet. Currently we, as Christians, voluntarily subject ourselves to him and his reign. However, even this is not fully realized, since as believers, we are not always allowing God to reign in our lives. When we pray, Your kingdom come, we are agreeing to our own kingdoms going, which means laying aside our agendas, plans, and ideals for the sake of His.

Chris Bowater captured this thought so well when he wrote the song, Reign In Me (Word Music UK, 1985) which speaks of allowing God’s reign to begin in my heart and life. It becomes very personal when we say to God, reign in me. It is not easy to set aside our kingdoms, those things which are under our control, particularly if we feel God has blessed us with these things. Nevertheless we can rest assured that no purpose of God’s will be thwarted (Job 42:2). If we set aside something that God requires, it will be restored.

Next post: Book Review: Same kind of different as me

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Update on my book

It has been 12 months since I have written about the progress of my book. This is mainly because there has been no progress, only some retreating! I recently received a rejection note that told me my writing was too preachy, which was very disappointing; especially as this is the second time I’ve been told that. I was talking to a friend who said she didn’t find my writing preachy. However she added that perhaps it was because she knew me and knew I wasn’t a preachy kind of person, which was reassuring. However in the light of these comments I feel I need to do a major rework.

Another interesting thing I’ve discovered is agents want all the permissions in place before they are approached. Permissions are sometimes necessary if you quote other sources. I would like to quote some song lyrics but mostly only one line from a song. However it seems, from what I’ve learnt so far, that even for one line I need a print license. In order to get a print license I need to know the release date and number of copies published. Of course, as yet I haven’t even got a contract so it is impossible to know this. I am continuing to make enquiries but it is probable I won’t be able to quote any lyrics (unless they are in the public domain) which is a bit sad.

Next post: Devotional Thought on Revelation 11:15

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Book Review : Get off your knees and pray

Sheila Walsh writes, Get off your knees and pray (Thomas Nelson, 2008), with the aim of encouraging Christian women to pray. Sheila provides suggestions, thought provoking illustrations and stories from her own life to reinforce her objective. She writes in a way that feels like a friendly chat over coffee, so it is not confrontational or condemning. This book is more than a book about prayer; it is about having a life style that is committed to connecting with God. Shelia addresses the many problems we face when we come to pray: Why does God say no? Is God angry with me? Why does God seem absent when I pray? Why did God help her and not me? How do I know I heard God’s voice? Can I ask God for anything if I have enough faith? Can I question God? Although many of these questions have often been discussed in other places I found Shelia answers, using Biblical truths and personal examples, reassuring and edifying.

I personally found the most beneficial part of the book was Sheila’s own testimony where she shared her struggle with depression. Her honesty and insights from this time were particularly helpful.

Overall it was a very worthwhile read.

Next post: Update on my book

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Monday, May 04, 2009

Devotional Thought : Revelation 9:20-21

The rest of the people who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands...nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts. Revelation 9:20-21

God is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9) and he will stop at nothing to encourage people to repent. We may want to see people relieved of their temporary suffering but God wants to see their soul saved from hell. So while the plagues in this chapter of Revelation are horrific, their object is to convince people to repent.

To our modern minds the plagues described here are completely unimaginable—vicious locusts and malicious horses. Yet it is important to remember John has been given the unenviable task of describing things he has never seen before. He has not seen anything mechanical, not a car, not a plane or a military tank. He has not seen warfare like we see on our TV screens. He has not witnessed a world war or seen a terrorist attack or seen the effects of chemical warfare. He is forced to describe warfare with only a small vocabulary so he resorts to things he knows—locusts and horses.

John also has the task in the book of Revelation of describing a vast landscape of events. Where to start? If you were describing a vast painting you might start from the left and move to the right. Or perhaps you would start with the foreground and move to the background. John is not giving us a chronological narrative of events here but rather describing a vast landscape of many events.

Through it all though, John’s message is clear, God is in charge of all things and his unrelenting desire is that people would come to him.

Next post: Book Review: Get off your knees & pray

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Friday, May 01, 2009

Back from holidays

These are two photos I took from a similar spot while I was on holidays. The bottom photo was early in the week when the weather was perfect and the top photo was later in the week when there was a storm. Quite a contrast but both were impressive.

I had a very enjoyable time, catching up with family and friends for about a week and then a very relaxing time for the other week. I read three books (!), completed about 20 puzzles, went for many walks, and visited a library (!). All in all a great time.

Next post: It seems I have not yet posted a devotional thought on Revelation 9 so that is coming up next!

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