Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sick Leave

I've been feeling rather unwell for a couple of weeks now and the doctor has given me two weeks sick leave. I'm going away for a few days of rest and recuperation and hope to be back here next week.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Understanding grace

I read this quote in a secular book*: “Let us look a little more closely at the idea that rewards should be bestowed on those who merit them. For many people, the moralistic corollary to this assumption that bad things should be bestowed on, or good things withheld from, those who are undeserving. Many of us have watched people become uneasy, if not positively furious, when they believe some offense – including one committed by a child – has not been punished severely enough.”

A sense of justice is ingrained in human nature and while this is a good thing it makes it difficult to accept grace. We rightly feel good behaviour should be rewarded and bad behaviour punished. Grace disrupts our sense of justice.

When it comes to God we underestimate the seriousness of our bad behaviour and think that we need only a little grace, especially when we think we balance out our bad behaviour with our good behaviour. It is only when we stop comparing ourselves with others and compare ourselves with God’s holiness that we have any idea of the enormous gap between our righteousness and God’s. So then the problem is not that God won’t freely give us as much grace as we need but rather that so many of us don’t believe we need that much grace. I sometimes wonder if that’s why God allows some people to fall into sin, it is the only way they will ever come to understand the depths of God’s grace.

*Punished by rewards : the trouble with gold stars, incentive plans, A’s, praise and other bribes by Alfie Kohn (Houghton Mifflin, 1999) pg. 20

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Book Review : Messianic Christology

Messianic Christology by Arnold Fruchtenbaum (Ariel ministries, 1998) is a fascinating look at Old Testament prophecies concerning the first coming of the Messiah. Although many of these prophecies are ones that I am familiar with the insight that Fruchtenbaum brings to them from a Jewish perspective is very enlightening.

The book is basically divided into looking at the prophecies from the Law, the Prophets and the Writings – the normal divisions that Jewish rabbis make. Fruchtenbaum begins each chapter with the Scripture reference and then proceeds to elaborate on the meaning of each prophecy, adding historical data and Jewish background material. The significance of the destruction of the Jewish temple in 70AD is particularly highlighted as not only was the temple destroyed but so were all the Jewish genealogy records. This meant that tracing the lineage of the Messiah after 70AD would not be possible yet several prophecies indicate that the Messiah lineage would be traceable. This strongly suggests the Messiah must have been born before 70AD which, of course, points to Jesus – something that orthodox Jews do not accept.

Towards the end of the book and in the appendices, Fruchtenbaum includes some further studies on such things as the Nephilim, Daniel’s seventy sevens, the wise men, the death of Judas Iscariot as well as thoughts on the trinity of God as revealed in the Old Testament.

Messianic Christology is easy to read, informative and instructive.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Extraverts vs Introverts

I read this quote and really did laugh out loud because it describes some extraverts I know so well!

"One of the big mistakes Extraverts make is to assume that if someone is not engaged with another person, that individual is simply not busy. So, it's okay to interrupt someone sitting and reading because that person is probably reading only because there is no one else with whom she can talk. You can only imagine what an Extravert thinks of someone who is sitting there not even reading but merely reflecting. Clearly that person needs to be put to some more useful task – such as listening to the Extravert's thoughts of the moment"

Kroeger, Thuesen and Rutledge, Type Talk at Work p.97

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Book Review : The Blue Parakeet

The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight (Zondervan, 2008) is an easy to read about how to understand the Bible. McKnight is well qualified to write such a book from both his studies and his experience.

McKnight believes we do the Bible a disservice when we treat it like a rule book or an instruction manual. As if it is a book we have to wrestle with in order to find a systematic theology. Instead we need to read the Bible as the continuing Story of God’s involvement in human affairs. Since God’s character doesn’t change we can learn from the way he dealt with his people in the past and understand how he will deal with us.

I particularly enjoyed the way McKnight showed how Jesus and Paul used teaching from the Old Testament yet presented it differently to fit the culture of their day. Likewise we need to take the principles, but not necessarily the practices, of both the Old and New Testament and think how these fit in our culture.

As an example of how to read the Bible (and how not to read the Bible) McKnight discusses the issue of women in ministry. He gives us the contextual background of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12, explaining them in light of the many other examples of women being active in leadership in the early church.

This is a very enlightening book which has helped me understand many of the more difficult passages in the Bible.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Please don't be wacky!

I read this recently in a book I'm reading (book review coming shortly):

*"If we demand women do something so totally contrary to culture that non-Christians are offended or turned off, we should reconsider what we are doing. Paul didn't want the dress of Christian women to bring a bad name to the gospel, so he asked them to wear head coverings; by contrast, demanding women wear head coverings in our world may do the very same damage."

So many of Paul's directives were about not drawing attention to ourselves by being different for no good reason. Another example is in 1 Corinthians 14:23 "So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind?" Again Paul's concern is what unbelievers will think of our behaviour.

People should be attracted to Christians because of the loving ways we act and not repelled because they think we are wacky.

*The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight (Zondervan, 2008)

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Saturday, January 08, 2011

Edward VIII quote

After watching the movie, The King’s Speech, I was doing a little research into British history and came across this quote by Edward VIII:
“Of course, I do have a slight advantage over the rest of you. It helps in a pinch to be able to remind your bride that you gave up a throne for her.”

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Friday, January 07, 2011

Devotional Thought : Romans 11:20-21

Do not be arrogant, but tremble. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. Romans 11:20-21

It is so easy to take our salvation for granted and become arrogant. But this passage reminds us that it was because of others’ unbelief that we were given the opportunity to be included in God’s plans (v.17). We are told, “do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches” (v.18). Just because we have experienced God’s blessings in our lives doesn’t mean we can now take his continued blessings for granted. The religious people in Jesus’ day thought they knew God and his plans for their nation but things didn’t work out the way they expected. Likewise we cannot assume we have God all worked out.

Paul describes our privileged position like this: “…and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root…consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you (v.17-18).

We are privileged to “share in the nourishing sap” but we are not the “root” We are not the life giving source, rather we are the recipients of God’s underserved favour. So the way to deal with our tendency to take God for granted is to develop a grateful attitude. Being thankful for God’s kindness and mercy helps us to keep in perspective that it is not by our own efforts that we have this privileged position. We have merely responded to God’s invitation. We did not initiate God’s interest in us nor have we done anything that would cause him to love us like he does. He is the “true vine” and we are the branches (John 15:1-5) so let’s be grateful people.

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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Book Review : The last day of my life

Jim Moret’s book, The last day of my life (Incognito books, 2009) gets off to a great start, makes a significant impact in the middle, but unfortunately doesn’t come to a satisfying end.

The book is largely biographical and covers many difficult times in Moret’s life. He lost a couple of childhood friends to cancer and his parents went through a messy divorce which led to him being estranged from his biological father. Later he made some bad financial decisions which, coupled with the financial melt down in America, put him in a bad place. At his lowest point with his marriage in trouble, he considered suicide but ultimately concluded that he was worth more to his family alive then dead, no matter how big the insurance policy. From this place he challenges his reader with the question, what would you do if you knew you only had one day to live?

While I didn’t expect the book to end with his financial problems solved, I would have liked to have known how he was progressing financially since he had explained in some detail these problems early in the book. He also hints at belief in a higher power but doesn’t elaborate on his spiritual understanding, and if this changed as a result of his experiences. So while this was an interesting read it left me feeling a bit cheated.

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Saturday, January 01, 2011

My plans for 2011

A year ago I wrote here about doing some study in 2010. I actually ended up doing a full time load of subjects at a Bible College in a nearby town. Several times during the year I did question my sanity because I also work part-time, which is actually half-time, as a librarian. Looking back on 2010 I wonder how I managed it. Then I look at this blog over 2010. Prior to 2010 I averaged 148 posts on my blog per year. In 2010 I posted 136 times. More revealing is the fact that I was averaging 37 book reviews a year and in 2010 I only wrote 21 book reviews. Furthermore I have done next to nothing in regard to the book I am writing. When I get busy the first thing to go is my writing/reading. Yet I feel my writing should be a priority. It is a gift that I need to spend time developing. Writing book reviews is not critical to my goals but reading helps me to think new thoughts and inspires me with new ideas.

This year, 2011, I have decided to complete the course of study that I commenced last year which again means a full load of subjects. However I will be doing about a third of it by correspondence. This gives me the opportunity to pace myself better and I am already doing one subject over the summer. It also means if things get too hectic I am not committed to finishing in 2011.

I have also resolved that other things in my life have to go before the time I spend writing. This is hard to do. It seems everything in my life demands my attention except my writing. Thoughts do not demand to be written down. Books do not demand to be read.

I am reminded of Jesus at the pool of Bethesda: “Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years” (John 5:3-5). Jesus healed the one but left the others. He didn’t meet every need that confronted him. Likewise neither can I. This year there are some needs, some demands, that I will be leaving undone in order to do the things that God has called me to do.

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