Thursday, December 30, 2010

Book Review : Lost angel

Lost angel by Mike Doogan (Hale Crime, 2007) is another book I took away on holidays because one of the subject headings listed was Christian fiction and again I’m wondering why. The story was set in a somewhat Christian community in Alaska. The main character was not a Christian even though he occasionally went to church and said a couple of prayers. Each chapter starts with a Scripture verse however; I don’t think any of these things makes it Christian fiction. The story could just have easily been set in any tight knit community. There was no strong Christian message, and the descriptions of the prostitution activity in the nearby town were way too detailed for a Christian novel.

On the upside it was a clever murder mystery and I did enjoy the unravelling of the clues, with its many twists along the way. Mike Doogan also did a great job of creating the atmosphere of Alaska, one felt cold just reading the book! Doogan created believable characters and an interesting story with the option of more mysteries for his detective to solve in future books.

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

Best wishes for a very happy Christmas.

I’ll be catching up with family for a few days and will be off line until the middle of next week.

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Devotional Thought : Romans 10:20

And Isaiah boldly says, "I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me." Romans 10:20

Sometimes we think we were the ones who were seeking after God. The reality is we only find God because he was first looking for us. This is portrayed so well in C.S. Lewis’ fantasy novel, The Silver Chair. The story begins with Jill Pole hiding from school yard bullies. She is helped by Eustace Scrubb, who suggests they call to Aslan, the lion who represents God, with the intention of getting away from the school yard bullies. Shortly after calling for Aslan, Jill and Eustace find themselves in the magical world of Narnia. Jill meets Aslan who tells her that he has called them from their own world to complete a task. Jill is greatly puzzled and says, “It was we who asked to come here.” However Aslan responds by saying, “You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you.”

It is God who takes the initiative and "finds" us. It is not us who "find" God. We respond to him, often before we are even aware he is seeking us. It was God who came to us as, “Immanuel”. It is God who allows us to hear his voice calling. God finds us like the farmer finds the lost sheep, like the woman finds the lost coin, and like the father who looks, waits, and runs to his lost son. He finds us because he is actively looking for us. He doesn’t wait until we are good enough or desperate enough. He is always actively pursuing us, not just to save us from our sins, but to have an ongoing relationship with Him.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Book Review : How Jewish is Christianity?

I decided to read, How Jewish is Christianity? 2 Views on the Messianic Movement by Louis Goldberg editor (Zondervan, 2003) because I am interested in Jewish history. I recently completed a church history subject yet discovered the subject matter quickly moved away from Jerusalem and focussed on Rome. I was left wondering but what was happening in Jerusalem? This book provided me with some of this history but this was not the main focus of the book. The book largely concerns itself with whether it is legitimate for Messianic congregations to exist. There are convincing arguments on both sides of the debate.

Some of the arguments for them not forming separate congregations are that they are likely to fall into legalism. Yet this is a danger for any congregation. Another argument is that they are meeting solely to please themselves without considering the needs of outsiders. Again this is a danger for any congregation. In the end it seems to me that it really doesn’t matter. If people want to congregate in Messianic gatherings why try to stop them? They will face the same challenges as well as some unique problems yet if they can meet and deal with these they can be as much a part of what God is doing in his world as any other congregation.

I was glad I persisted and finished the book although at times it got bogged down with tedious arguments because it gave me some interesting insights into Jewish thought and practice.

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Last 15 of 45 life lessons by Regina Brett

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
32. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
33. Believe in miracles.
34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.
35. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
36. Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.
37. Your children get only one childhood.
38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.
41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
42. The best is yet to come...
43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
44. Yield.
45. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.

I think 40 is quite an interesting thought. They say that we marry people who are like our parents in some way because we are use to their problems. And I especially like 34 :)

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

What I've been reading...

I flicked my way through, Why I stayed by Gayle Haggard. It is an autobiographical account of her relationship with Ted Haggard who was the senior pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs. The book begins when Gayle first meets Ted, continues through to his confession of sexual immorality in 2006, and concludes with the place they have come to in life and in ministry.

I find the church culture described in these types of books so different to Australian church culture that I have trouble being able to relate. There are times when I just don’t understand what they are expressing. Maybe it is just the size of American churches compared to Australian churches. Anyway I must confess to not reading the book thoroughly so I’m not writing a ‘proper’ book review.

However Gayle did share one insight I found particularly helpful. She said that she processes things mentally before she processes them emotionally and I suddenly realized that I do the same thing. Often when something disagreeable happens I find myself coping quite well at the time but two days later I can be very depressed about it. Being an introvert it always takes me longer to process things as I tend to be more thorough in my thought processes so maybe this is also part of being an introvert or maybe it’s just idiosyncrasy!

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Devotional Thought : Romans 9:5

Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Romans 9:5

Christmas is a good time to remind ourselves that Jesus had a human ancestry and was fully human yet he is also fully God.

However I often come across people who see Jesus as possessing righteousness and wisdom but otherwise an ordinary man, perhaps divinely appointed by God but certainly not divine. They would say that Jesus never says, "I am God."

Jesus lived in a Jewish culture and therefore addressed his comments to a Jewish audience. The reason Jesus often hid his identity was because the Jews held many incorrect preconceived ideas of the Messiah. To fully understand what Jesus was saying we need to look at how his audience understood him. For example in John 8:58-59 we read: "'I tell you the truth,' Jesus answered, 'before Abraham was born, I am!' At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself…" The penalty for blaspheme was stoning. Again in John 10:30-33 we find a similar claim and a similar response from the audience: "'I and the Father are one.' Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, 'I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?' 'We are not stoning you for any of these,' replied the Jews, 'but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.'"

Jesus’ humanity and divinity is an important issue because John tells us in 1 John 4:2 and 2 John 1:7 that anyone who denies that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not from God. Our very salvation depends on us believing in Jesus being fully human and fully God.

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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Second 15 of 45 life lessons by Regina Brett

16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.
18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.
19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.
20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.
21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.
23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.
24. The most important sex organ is the brain.
25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.
26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words 'In five years, will this matter?'
27. Always choose life.
28. Forgive everyone everything.
29. What other people think of you is none of your business.
30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

I use to say 26 to my kids especially when they were agruing about whose turn it was to sit in the front of the car! and other 'important' issues. I also like 22 and 29.

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Thursday, December 09, 2010

Devotional Thought : Romans 8:23

Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:23

What we experience now is only the firstfruits of the Spirit, but one day we will experience the whole crop! As 1 John 3: 2 tells us “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.” We live between the ‘now’ and the ‘not yet’.

Now we are children of God and we experience some of the blessings of God’s kingdom but not all. We see glimpses of God’s kingdom. We see some healings, some miracles but we know that not everyone is healed, not everyone who needs a miracle receives one. Our gardens still have weeds! However these firstfruits should encourage us to believe and pray, “Your kingdom come” because we desire to see more and more God’s kingdom forcefully advancing and impacting our world for good (Matthew 11:12).

Meanwhile we groan inwardly as we wait to experience all that God has for us. We groan because we are often overwhelmed with the consequences of living in a broken world and our inability to make an impact in the face of so many difficulties. Yet we can have hope because we know God has so much more to reveal. “‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’— but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10).

While groaning is our inward expression, hope is our outward expression. Hope doesn’t deny the world’s brokenness, but looks forward to the receiving the full harvest of God’s promises.

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Saturday, December 04, 2010

First 15 of 45 life lessons by Regina Brett

Regina Brett is 90 years old and came up with these life lessons. I find it interesting to discover what conclusions people come to in their latter years. By the time someone is 90 they have usually work out what is really important and what is not.

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.
5. Pay off your credit cards every month.
6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.
8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.
10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.
12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.
13. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.
15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.

In this section my favourties are No. 2 & 13.

Anyone else care to share a favourite?

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Thursday, December 02, 2010

Book Review : Lessons in letting go

Corinne Grant’s book, Lessons in letting go (Allen & Unwin, 2010) was not what I expected. About 20 years ago I met Corinne and her family and for about a year my family rented a house that had been Corinne’s grandparents’ home. Over the years I have vaguely kept track of Corinne’s career and I have seen a couple of her appearances on TV. Amongst other things Corinne is a stand-up comedian, actor, and a writer. So I was expecting her book to be a collection of funny stories about the useless stuff we keep.

Instead it was a deeply personal biographical account of her compulsive hoarding behaviour. It was interspersed with humour but it was difficult to laugh until the latter part of the book because there was such a sense of pain in her words. Perhaps this may not have been the case if I hadn’t felt such a personal connection to the places and people she wrote about.

I did enjoy the book and it does contain a lot of useful lessons in why we hang onto to things when really we ought to let them go. Personally I hoard books even though I know the only time I will take them off the shelves is if we move. Corinne’s book made me realize the reason I keep them is for emotional reasons not rational ones. Yet it is not until we identify these emotional reasons that we are freed to get rid of our junk.

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