Friday, October 30, 2009

Gold, Pearl, Precious Stones pt.2

Pearls are a unique gem created by a living organism. They are created when a foreign body finds its way into a pearl oyster. The oyster reacts by coating the foreign body with many layers of the pearly substance that gives the pearl its unique appearance and beauty. Pearls are created by irritation.

So, have you been irritated lately?

If God controls the universe, we wonder why insignificant things go wrong for no apparent reason. We get flat tires at inopportune moments. The electric jug burns out three weeks after the warrantee expires. Computers crash the day before assignments are due. If God is interested in the smallest details of our lives we often wonder why don’t our lives run more smoothly. However we live in a fallen world where there are irritations. God wants to turn our these into pearls.

By bringing our frustrations to Jesus we can allow him to transform our irritations into pearls. The other option is to become bitter and blame others or even God for our frustrations. But God wants pearls for his city and he wants to produce them in our lives.

Pearls are of great value to God.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Gold, Pearl, Precious Stones pt.1

This is part 1 of my sermon notes. I'd like to acknowledge Frank Viola's book: From eternity to here which helped me in preparing this talk

1 Peter 2:4-5
As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ

So for a few minutes we are going to think about being living stones and about being built into a spiritual house.

Revelation 21:9-10
One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb." And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.

Isn’t it interesting the angel said he was going to show John the wife of the Lamb and he shows him the Holy City, the new Jerusalem. God often uses pictures to describe his people. The most common ones are the Bride of Christ or the wife of the Lamb; the Body of Christ; the family of God; God’s building or God’s temple. So John is not just describing a city here. He is describing the people of God.

Revelation 21:11-21
It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates…v.19The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire…the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.

Three jewels are mentioned in this passage: gold, pearl and precious stones.

Let’s think about gold for a moment.
• Gold is shiny and is the only yellow metal.
• Gold usually exists as a pure metal.
• Gold does not corrode or stain.
• Gold has a high melting point (1064°C).
• Gold is about 19 times heavier than water (it’s nearly twice as dense as lead).
• Gold is malleable and ductile (can be beaten and drawn out into a wire).
• Gold conducts electricity.
• Gold is soft

Gold is purified and refined by fire. Fire draws out all its impurities thus making the gold pure. When gold is pure, it’s transparent. v.21 The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass. Nothing can be hidden in it.

God is building his city with gold, pure gold. We are his city. We are going to go through the fire in order to produce that gold.

About 20 years ago my husband had cancer. Following that time God gave me this verse:

Psalm 66:10-12 p.345
For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.

God allows suffering and difficulties to come into our lives in order to produce gold for the building of his house. It’s a good thing to remember when you are going through a difficult time. God is producing gold. It is also something we need to encourage each other with too. Whatever our difficulties, God wants to produce gold in our lives.

There are lots of verses in the Bible about gold and also about fire this is another:

1 Corinthians 3:9-16 p.686
v.9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building…v.12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work…v.16 Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple…

Ok, that’s gold. Next we are going to think about pearls.

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Holidays! Holidays!

Over the last few weeks my wonderful stress-free job became stressful! How ironic! A situation arose at work which, of course should not have happened, and caused numerous meetings, emails, telephone calls etc. On top of that I have also been particularly busy with job related stuff. Just goes to show that even with a stress-free job, life happens.

Fortunately some months ago, my husband and I had arranged a couple of weeks’ holiday for late October, which after the events of the last few weeks I’m really looking forward to. I'm planning to do lots of shopping, hence the picture. So I’m not going to around here for a short while. In the meantime I have scheduled three posts which are the notes of my first sermon, which I mentioned in this post.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Book Review : Learn to study the Bible

Learn to study the Bible by Andy Deane (Xulon, 2009) is a great resource for people who want to do some serious Bible study. Andy’s explains that the difference between reading the Bible and studying the Bible comes down to one thing: writing. As we write down our insights, our questions, our responses, we are connecting more deeply with God’s Word. Of course, not everyone wants to put in the time and commitment to do this and those people who do not, would be overwhelmed by a book like this.

The sub-title of this book is: Forty different step by step methods to help you discover, apply and enjoy God’s Word. By describing 40 different ways of studying the Bible it is immediately obvious there are many ways of studying the Bible. By flicking through the various methods that are outlined we can find one that suits us.

Furthermore we don’t have to stick with one method forever. Using a different study method can breathe fresh life into our Bible study times even if we only use it for a short time.

I found the handwritten examples after the explanation of the Bible study method particularly helpful. It was like looking over someone’s shoulder while they were having their own private Bible study time, which is not something you are normally privileged to do.

Here is the web site if you would like more information: Learn to study the Bible

As a book reviewer, I did receive this book for free. However as a personal blogger, I was under no obligation to write a positive review.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Devotional Thought : 2 Timothy 4:17

But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength… 2 Timothy 4:17

Likewise the Lord stands by our side and gives us strength to cope with whatever we have to face. If you are anything like me though, you would prefer that the Lord removed the difficult circumstances! However God is more interested in supplying us with his enabling grace than rescuing us from trying situations. He wants us to be strong and courageous in his strength.

Recently in Word for Today (12/10/09) the writer asked this question: “Would I still be anxious if I knew for certain I could handle anything that came up? The answer is no.” We become anxious when we are not sure if we can handle difficulties, situations, or relationships. We see future problems rising up and we feel overwhelmed. God’s solution is to give us grace, one day at a time, like manna.

In Exodus 16, we read about God’s provision of manna. For six days they collected manna, on the sixth day (and only the sixth day) they collected twice as much. On the seventh day, they rested. It sounds simple enough. However I know if I had been there I would have wanted to collect extra manna on those days when I wasn’t suppose to. I would want my own private stock pile of manna. I feel the same about grace. I want God to supply grace before I need it, just so I can be sure it’s there when I do need it. But the stored up manna was smelly by the next day and God doesn’t give grace in advance.

If we want to live without anxiety, we have to trust God, and believe that we can handle anything because he is at our side strengthening us.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

The world rewards complainers

Have you ever got an upgrade, bonus or a discount because you complained? It happens, and it happens quite a lot. Perhaps you deserved special treatment, but maybe others deserved it more.

Have you ever given in to your children because they complained? So you let them have the extra lolly, the extra game, the extra five minutes in front of the TV. Maybe later when you had tired, grumpy children you regretted it.

The world often rewards complainers. We might get our own way, we might get an extra helping, or we might receive something which has a limited supply all because we complained. We may have complained about the lack of service, the lack of attention, or the lack of consideration of our needs and we were rewarded. I wonder if it was worth the emotional energy it took?

God doesn’t work like the world. He doesn’t cave into our complaints. We can’t wear him down with our nagging or hope he’ll give in to our badgering. No matter how much emotional energy we may put into our ranting, it will not move God. When we complain about our circumstances, our appearance, or our situation in life we are saying to God that we deserve to be treated better. God is not impressed with our arrogance. The history of the Israelites shows that God was not impressed with their complaints. God rewards those who seek him in faith (Hebrews 11:6). We please God when we don’t complain but rather trust him with the outcome (see also Philippians 2:14-15).

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Book Review : Get out of that pit

Get out of that pit (Thomas Nelson, 2007) is written in a conversational style and I imagine Beth Moore speaks like she writes. This style makes the book very easy to read and has touches of humor that lighten the serious message that Beth is presenting.

Based on Psalm 40:1-3, Beth defines the word “pit” as anything that makes you feel stuck, like you can’t stand up against temptation, and causes you to lose your vision—your hope for the future.

Beth also describes three paths that lead us into a pit. We are either thrown in, slip in or jump in. From there Beth outlines three steps to take in order to get out of the pit, regardless of how you found yourself there.

Beth confronts Christians and leaves them with no excuses for continuing to live in a “pit” with an unacceptable life style. She cites example after example, including many from her own life, of people who have fought addictions, emotional traumas, relational dependencies, and other type of bondages. Yet they all found freedom in Christ. Her message is highly challenging yet full of understanding and grace.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Devotional Thought : 2 Timothy 3:10

“You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings…” 2 Timothy 3:10

I heard a minister speak on this verse just a few weeks after I became a Christian (almost 40 years ago!). Obviously it had a big impact on me.

The minister asked the question: Do you have people around you who know all about your teaching, your way of life…?

Do we even want to have people around us, who know all about our teaching, our way of life, our purpose, our faith, our patience, our love, our endurance, and our difficulties? God has placed us in church communities in order that we will build close relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Then our faith will not be just words but evident in our life style.

God doesn’t want hypocrites. This is the reason Jesus was so critical of the Pharisees. The word “hypocrite” comes from a Greek word which contains the idea of wearing a mask. God wants us so secure in our relationship with him that we do not need to wear a mask. Interestingly, we tend to use the word “hypocrite” for people who try to make themselves look better than they really are. In its truest sense, though, hypocrites are people who present themselves differently than they really are. Consequently we can also pretend to be less competent than we are in order to evoke sympathy and this is no less hypocritical than pretending to be more competent than we are.

It’s a challenge, yet a blessing, to allow ourselves to be vulnerable with those Christians who know us best. To let them get to know us so well that they indeed know all about our faith, our patience, our love, and our difficulties.

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

You can be bored or scared

Last weekend I went on a church camp. This is the third year in a row I have been on this particular camp and each time there has been a bike ride on the Saturday afternoon. There is no age limit on this ride. Some riders in fact travel in a child’s seat on the back of their mother’s bike. Other riders are my age (whatever age that is!). Having watched the riders come and go for the last three years, I finally got bored with watching and decided next time I’m riding. It’s a fairly scary decision, given I haven’t ridden a bike since I got my driver’s license at 18. But the choice is: be bored or be scared.

It started me thinking about an analogy to the Christian life. In the Christian life we can either be bored or scared. Many choose boredom which is why so many church services are so dull. The people have settled for a comfortable, safe version of Christianity where people are never challenged. People never spiritually mature and never move out of their comfort zone. They go through the same routines week after week. Nothing ever happens because they have left God off the agenda and they don’t put God on the agenda because…well, you never know what might happen.

The other choice is to be scared. Following God is scary, it requires us to get out the boat and walk on water. That is, we have to get out of comfort zone and do things we think are impossible for us. God challenges us, stretches us and calls us to do things that we think are way beyond us. The only assurance we have is His presence and He tells us, that is enough.

Personally I've chosen to be scared, which is why, at the church camp, I preached my first sermon—all seven minutes of it! A few years ago this would have been completely impossible but God has been doing a work in my life and He is not finished yet.

So in your Christian walk, do you want to be bored or scared?

There are no other options...

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Book Review : Sing and don't cry

Sing, and don't cry : a Mexican journal (Transit Lounge, 2005) is Cate Kennedy's biographical account of her time with a rural development organization in Queretaro, Mexico called URAC (the Regional Union for the Support of Peasant Farmers). Cate explains in one brief sentence how this came about. "Less than a year ago, restless for a new challenge, Phil and I had applied to do a volunteer stint anywhere in the world, and the dice have rattled in the cup and tossed us here in Mexico." It proved to a life changing experience.

Cate arrives in Mexico barely able to speak Spanish and is initially assigned the task of working with the URAC's community bank program. URAC provides a community bank where members can both borrow and save money. She learns there are five things which are considered essential to life and therefore worth getting into debt for. These are medicine, education, home improvements, fiestas (celebrations) and pilgrimages. These five things form the backbone of the book as Cate discusses them in much detail. The book is filled with vivid descriptions which convey not only the sights and sounds of rural Mexico but also the heartbeat of the place. You feel like you are there.

Cate willingly opens her heart to the Mexican people and in her two year placement learns not only the language and customs of these people but also their values. She finds herself confronted with a value system vastly different to the one she knew in Australia. A value system based on what is sometimes referred to as 'social capital' where community, participation and human contact are considered valuable which is why fiestas and pilgrimages are so important to them.

The overwhelming poverty and lack of opportunities for people, particularly the children is heart wrenching. It makes Cate realizes how wealthy she is monetarily but her real distress is the knowledge she is helpless to bring any lasting change to these people. Negligent governments have enacted policies which have caused much of the poverty and hardship in the country and there are no simple solutions to the immense problems. However the resilience of the people to celebrate and remain hopeful in the face of such depressing circumstances deeply impacts Cate and is reflected in the title, Sing and don't cry.

The book concludes with Cate struggling to readjust to living back in Australia. Walking around her home city, she is depressed by the lack of colour, everything appears so clean and orderly yet there is so little human interaction. The lack of eye contact, the coldness and indifference of strangers all make her feel lost in her own country. She finds it difficult to explain the reverse culture shock she is experiencing and thus it is hard for her to relate to her friends. In the end she comes to an unconvincing peace with her homeland.

Cate Kennedy's Mexican journal is an intense journey into another culture which leaves you with a Mexican taste in your senses and disconcerting questions in your mind as to who is really poor.

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Devotional Thought : 2 Timothy 2:7

Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this. 2 Timothy 2:7

In Every Day with Jesus (17/09/09), Selwyn Hughes quotes Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones as saying, “Faith…is primarily thinking…and the whole trouble with a man of little faith is that he does not think. He allows circumstances to bludgeon him.”

This verse from Timothy explains that as we think about faith issues God will give us insights. So it is not just about us using our minds but also about God revealing truth to us.

Sometimes our reluctance to think about our faith comes from a fear we will discover inconsistencies in what we believe. If there are discrepancies between what we believe and the way we act, then we will not mature in our faith until we have worked through these issues. God can handle our doubts. We can bring them to him, and by reflecting on them he will give us understanding.

I have conversed with supposedly thinking atheists only to discover they have closed minds. They simply dismiss anything they disagree with, without even thinking about it. We don’t need to be like them. If we are confident in our faith, we are able to consider opinions that differ from ours. From time to time I read books I disagree with. It helps me understand where others are coming from, but more importantly it helps me clarify in my own mind what I believe and why.

Let’s not be afraid to be thinking Christians. God wants to reveal insights to us and he can only do that as we reflect on our faith.

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Saturday, October 03, 2009

How many are you?

I posted the following conversation on my Facebook page but I felt it deserved a wider audience so I’m posting it here as well. It’s a conversation I had with one of the kindergarten children on their latest visit to the library.

“How many are you?” she asked me.
“How many, what, am I? I replied a little perplexed.
“How many are you?”
“Well…how many are you?”
“I’m four. How many are you?”
“Oh, I’m more than four. Lots and lots more than four,” which seemed to satisfy her curiosity!

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Book Review : Eats, shoots & leaves

I really enjoyed reading, Eats, shoots & leaves : the zero tolerance approach to punctuation by Lynne Truss (Profile, 2003). I didn’t know punctuation could be so amusing!

Lynne has a delightfully humorous approach to the English rules of punctuation while at the same time pointing out many of the common errors people make. Encouraging people to laugh at themselves is a subtle, but effective way of promoting change. In particularly she discusses the use of apostrophes, commas, semi colons, colons, dashes, and hyphens. I found the book instructive without being pedantic. Lynne tells interesting stories of how the wrong use of punctuation can give an entirely different meaning. She also uses quotes from famous people, historical stories, as well as sign writers to make her point.

In addition Lynne points some of the discrepancies between American punctuation and English punctuation styles which I found particularly helpful as I often finding myself writing for an American audience.

I also found the title very clever. It is based on a joke about a panda which has a double meaning because of the placement of the comma. This fits so well with the tone of the book.

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