Monday, August 31, 2009

Devotional Thought : 1 Timothy 5:3,5,16

I'm posting this thought out of order (as far as the book of Timothy is concerned) as I want to refer to it in my next post, which will be part of a synchroblog on Christian Perspectives on Health Care

Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need... The widow who is really in need ...the church can help those widows who are really in need...1 Timothy 5:3, 5 & 16

Three times Paul makes a distinction between widows, and widows “who are really in need”. Widows are helped on the basis of need and the initial responsibility lies with the widow’s family.

This points out a significant difference between the way churches help people and the way government agencies help. Churches are in a position to discern genuine need because they are community based. Therefore the people who attend also associate with each other at other times. If someone is in need, others in the church ought to notice and do something about it. Whereas government agencies aim to help everyone equally and have no foolproof way of discerning true need.

Helping people can be a tricky business; on the one hand we don’t want to neglect those in need. While on the other we don’t want people to become idle and abuse the generosity of others. Paul gives these instructions in Galatians 6:2, “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ”. Yet only a few verses later we are told, “for each of you should carry your own load” (v.5). A burden is something that weighs us down and we need help with it, while a load is a person’s normal responsibilities.

God places us in a church family so that we can know each other and care for each other. By spending time with our church family we become aware of each other’s burdens and we find ways of supporting them. God has placed the church in an ideal position to be a most effective helping agency.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

How do you read?

If you visit my blog often you will know that I like to read. You may even have picked up that I read quickly. Lately though, I’ve been realizing this is a mixed blessing. When I learnt to read I was a bit lazy and didn’t bother to stop and look up the words I did not know in a dictionary. I also didn’t bother to sound out these words. I didn’t need to know what the words sounded like in order to understand the story. I tend to get very engrossed when I read and I didn’t want to disengage from the book to look up a word. So as long as I could make some sense of the word from the context I just kept going. By not pronouncing all the words in my head I can read much quicker. However as an adult, I am now in the rather embarrassing situation of finding there are many words that I simply don’t know how to pronounce, even though I may know what they mean.

So how do you read? Do you read every word, sounding them out in your head? Or do you read quickly, skipping over everything that doesn’t move the story forward?

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Shared Experiences

Yesterday I read these two books to a group of 55 young primary school children. Reading to children is a very worthwhile pursuit. It encourages them to love stories and teaches them to read for themselves. Reading books to children also provides the opportunity for a shared experience. I think the value of a shared experience is greatly underappreciated. We live in a world where we are offered so many choices and therefore we tend to fall into the trap of thinking we always have the right to our preference. Yet this attitude breeds selfishness. Sometimes it is beneficial to deliberately create a shared experience—like reading a book with a child.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Devotional Thought : 1 Timothy 2:1-2

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 1 Timothy 2:1-2

If we want to live peaceful and quiet lives it is up to us to pray for those in authority. Paul doesn’t tell us to petition the government, or protest the decline in moral standards, or blame the government for not employing enough police. Rather he places the responsibility on us to pray.

It has always been this way, 2 Chronicles 7:14 clearly states: “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” There is a price to be paid if we want God’s blessing on our land. Firstly we are told to humble ourselves and acknowledge we cannot solve our problems with man’s wisdom. God calls us to be “poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3) and realize we need God’s help. Secondly we are told to pray. Praying takes patience and determination. It is generally not convenient as there is always something else we would rather be doing. Thirdly we are told to seek God’s face. Rather than asking God to bless our plans we are required to find out what God’s plans are and pray that they will come to pass, regardless of our own desires. Fourthly we are told to turn from our wicked ways. Our wicked ways are generally our desires to do things our way rather than God’s.

Do we want to live peaceful and quiet lives? Are we fulfilling our responsibility to pray?

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

There is nothing in the world so damaged...

Last week I watched Appointment with Death on DVD. It was based on the book by Agatha Christie and Hercule Poirot solved the crime. Apparently though, there were some significant changes to the plot in the DVD version. It was not a pleasant story. One of the characters, Jinny, had experienced severe childhood abuse and I felt the “flash backs” were overdone. However, at the end of the movie, I nearly fell off my chair when Hercule Poirot consoled Jinny with these words:

There is nothing in the world so damaged that it cannot be repaired by the hand of Almighty God.

Where did that come from? It doesn’t sound like anything Agatha Christie would write. Did a script writer think he ought to add some hope to an otherwise dismal tale?

Anyway it is quite a profound thought and one that requires a step of faith to believe. I must admit I haven’t always believed it but these days I do.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Book Review : From eternity to here

Frank Viola describes the relationship God wants with his people by putting forward three pictures. These pictures become the three parts of the book, From eternity to here : rediscovering the ageless purpose of God (David C Cook, 2009).

Firstly there is the picture of the bride of Christ. Mostly we are familiar with this picture from Ephesians 5:25-26 “…Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy…” However Viola starts at Genesis and shows how this thought has been on God’s heart from the very beginning of time. Viola continues through the Old Testament showing how many of the stories we are familiar with fit in with this theme.

Secondly there is the picture of the house of God. Again we are familiar with the Scripture from Revelation 21:3 “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them”. And again Viola starts at Genesis and reveals how God has always desired to dwell with men.

Thirdly there is the picture of the body of Christ and the family of God. These are also well known images and yet Viola is able to bring new insights and further truths to these pictures.

By putting together all these images Viola has given us the opportunity to gaze at the “big picture” of God’s ageless purpose. The book teaches us so much about God’s desire for his people and puts our minor irritations and frustrations into a much better perspective.

This is a great read with so many helpful thoughts and interesting concepts.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Devotional Thought : 1 Timothy 1:5

“But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5 NAS).

The aim of Christian teaching is not that we get an A+ for theology. The aim is not that we acquire a great deal of knowledge about insignificant details in the Bible like the genealogies (v.4). The aim is that we become more loving. In John 13:35 Jesus didn't say that all men will know we are Christians by our theology, our doctrines, or our preaching but rather people will know we are Christians by our love.

The test of our maturity as Christians is not on the basis of age, intelligence, or how long we have been a Christian. Our maturity is not measured by how much of the Bible we know, or how much we pray, even though these are important disciplines. But the acid test is how much do we love? Are we growing in this area? Are we moving towards the goal of love?

So how do we become more loving? 1 John 4:19 tells that, “we love because He first loved us”. The more we understand how much God loves us, the more we will be able to love others. Paul knew how important this was and prayed that we would have power to comprehend it. He wrote this: “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge...” (Ephesians 3:17-19).

As we open our lives to His love and allow ourselves to be loved, then we will find our love for God growing and flowing on to others.

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

God knows what I need

Last week I went to a ladies retreat. It is an annual retreat and prior, to moving to our current location, I went for six years in a row. Then due to work commitments and other obligations I didn’t go for three years and then I went this year. So this year was actually my seventh—knowing how keen God is on sevens, perhaps I should have suspected He was up to something! But I did not. I went expecting a relaxing time, of catching up with other ladies and hearing some good messages.

On the first evening the speaker spoke about getting rid of our excess baggage. Along the lines of Hebrews 12:2 “lay aside everything that weighs us down”. I wasn’t particularly aware of anything I needed to lay aside. However God knew better.

Following the message I was sharing with some ladies about a difficult meeting that I had at my work place just prior to coming away. I was feeling upset about it. One of the ladies, who has a prayer counseling ministry, made the comment that there seemed to be more going on than just the meeting and perhaps we could get together and pray about it? It seemed like a good idea. This lady ended up spending quite a bit of time praying with me and it turned out to be a very healing time for me. God knew I was still carrying pain from things that had happened when I was very young and even though I thought I had dealt with all the issues associated with this trauma there were still remnants, untouched by God’s healing grace. Consequently, but unknowingly, this pain had been affecting the way I reacted in certain situations.

As I reflected on this time, I am amazed at how God orchestrated the circumstances so I was in a position to receive this blessing.

...for your Father knows what you need before you ask him...Matthew 6:8

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Book Review : The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society

I enjoy books that are written as letters and The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society (Allen & Unwin, 2008) is such a book. By leaving time gaps between the letters the reader’s imagination is left to fill in the details. I find this a very clever device and Mary Ann Shaffer employs it well. Compiling the story in short letters has the effect of moving the story along at a good pace and it doesn’t get bog down in the details. Nevertheless there are enough short descriptive pieces to give the reader a good feel for the location.

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society is a moving story of life and loss following the German occupation of Guernsey during World War II. Juliet Ashton is a London writer who begins corresponding with several residents from Guernsey and develops such good relationships with them that she arranges a visit in order to write a book. However events conspire that permanently change the direction of Juliet’s life.

This is an enjoyable read, full of interesting characters and believable situations. It creates enough intrigue that you just want to keep turning pages til the very end.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Devotional Thought : Psalm 86:15

But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Psalm 86:15

David’s description of God in this Psalm is very similar to Jonah’s, “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity” (Jonah 4:2).

It is interesting that these two Old Testament people describe God as gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love. We can easily see that Jesus was compassionate but sometimes when we read the OT, we may wonder about a God who seems to initiate wars and destruction.

I think there are two things to keep in mind when we read the OT. Firstly it was written thousands of years ago. While the language has been updated the customs have not. If we read other literature from this time period, I think we would be less surprised about the warfare in the OT. Secondly the Israelites were constantly being led astray to worship idols and engage in unsavory religious ceremonies. God wanted to protect his people from the influence of pagan nations and sometimes the only way to do this was to defeat these nations in battle.

However God has never liked violence and way back in Genesis 6:11 we read, “Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight and was full of violence.” God even regretted that he had made human beings (6:5).

Yet if David and Jonah understood, in the war culture that they lived in, that God was compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love, how much more should we grasp it. Especially as we have the opportunity of reading the gospels, where we see Jesus, the exact representation of God’s being (Hebrews 1:3).

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Ladies Retreat

Tonight I am going away for a few days to attend a CWCI ladies retreat. This is an annual event and I was in the habit of attending before we moved. However it is now a 5 hour drive so I haven't been for a while. So I'm hoping it will be a good time and I'm looking forward to catching up with the ladies who I have met there before.

Meanwhile I probably won't be blogging here until next week.

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Monday, August 03, 2009

Devotional Thought : Revelation 22:5

There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. Revelation 22:5

In the celestial City we regain the tree of life but so much more. Our relationship with God will be more personal than the relationship God had with Adam and Eve in the Garden. If Adam and Eve had really understood the character of God they would not have hid when they sinned. They didn’t know the intensity of love God has for his people or the depth of his grace. God is a personal God who wants us to know Him intimately. Maybe this is why God allowed evil to enter the world because it was the only way we were ever going to realize that God is a God of grace and unconditional love. A God who was prepared to send his own Son to earth, to a cruel death because he so wanted to restore the relationship broken by Adam’s sin. How would we have known that, if we had never left the Garden?

Some years ago Grace Hawthorne & Buryl Red wrote a song called, “Would You”. The song asks if we would appreciate loving arms, going home, guiding hands, having hope, being safe, and gentle words if we didn’t know what it was like to experience the opposite. God wants a relationship based on truth so we had to know the full consequences of sin.

God allows suffering because he has a greater purpose in mind than our immediate comfort. He is preparing a celestial city where He can dwell with his people and never again be separated from them. We will gain more than we ever lost.

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