Thursday, June 30, 2011

Goodbye to my job

Today is my last day working at the library which is not only sad for me but sad for my community, which still has a library, but no librarian.

Right now I am really looking forward to a rest and some time by the "still waters" to restore my soul as the last 12 months have been quite stressful. I am going away tonight for about two weeks. I will have some internet access so will be online but not as much as usual.

"He makes me lie down in green pastures. he leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leades me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake" (Psalm 23:2-3).

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Book Review : Communicating Jesus' Way

Communicating Jesus’ way (William Carey Library, 1998) looks at how Jesus communicated his message to his disciples and to his community. Jesus employed the communication style of his culture to great effect and we can do the same.

Kraft looks at three types of communication to discover which style of teaching is the most life changing for the audience. Firstly there is monolog as in a sermon, then dialog as in a group discussion and then life involvement as in the three years Jesus spent with his disciples. The most life changing of these was life involvement. However even Jesus was only able to do this with 12 men. Likewise in the discussion mode of teaching we can really only impact at most about 25 people. So in our modern society we tend to use the monolog even though it is the least impacting on people’s lives. Kraft then looks at how we can take monolog communication and make it more impacting by learning from the other styles of communication.

Kraft also looks at how God communicates with his people and points out the enormous lengths God went to in order to connect with people. He took all the initiative, went out his way to establish and restore a relationship with people. God has modelled how to communicate and we can learn much by studying God’s methods.

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Devotional Thought : Luke 18:40-41

When he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied. Luke 18:40-41

Matthew and Mark also record Jesus’ question as: “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus knew the man was blind it seems like an unnecessary question. Yet all three authors record Jesus’ question because it was important for several reasons. Firstly Jesus never assumes. He is God yet he doesn't barge into someone's life with all the answers even though he does indeed have all the answers. Secondly he expects us to ask. We can not be passive if we want God’s help.

Some take the attitude: if God wants to do something in my life he knows where I live; if God knows everything then he doesn’t need me to tell him my needs. However this attitude underestimates God’s love. True love does not force itself upon us, neither does it manipulate or coerce. God will not override our free will. He will not interfere in our circumstances uninvited.

We sometimes forget that Revelation 3:20 was written to Christians: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in…” Jesus waits until we open the door, the door not only to our lives but also to the individual situations we find ourselves in. Jesus stands ready to help, he emphasizes this by saying, “Here I am!” He waits for an invitation, a request, even a whisper. We can hang onto our self-sufficiency, our man made solutions, our independence or we can be like the blind man who calls out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (v.38) and when faced with opposition he called out even more (v.39).

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Friday, June 24, 2011

The risk factor

Recently I have been reading, Communicating Jesus’ way by Charles Kraft (William Carey Library, 1998).

On page 72 Kraft writes:

As we read this, or as we sit listening to a communicator speak, we may have little conscious awareness of the risk factor. And yet, whenever we expose ourselves to communication we are risking the possibility that we might have to change some aspect of our lives. We ordinarily seek at all costs to maintain our present equilibrium, to protect ourselves from assimilating anything that will upset our psychological balance. To do this we often build walls around ourselves in such a way that we can shed anything we hear that would put pressure on us to change our lifestyle.

How aware are you of the risk factor in listening to a sermon or reading a Christian book?

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Devotional Thought : Luke 17:4-5

Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” Luke 17:4-5

Jesus is talking about forgiveness and yet the apostles respond by saying, “Increase our faith!” Why do they connect faith with forgiveness? Because it takes faith to forgive. When we forgive we are not seeking to get even but rather we are trusting God to look after our interests. When we forgive someone we are “letting them off the hook”. We are letting go of our anger and our pain. The reason we are able to do this is because we believe that God is in control of all our circumstances and He is our Vindicator. We can trust that God won’t allow us to be cheated without purpose or hurt beyond our ability to bear.

Forgiveness isn’t easy but the alternatives are even less attractive. Remaining angry creates bitterness which only hurts ourselves, and not the person who has hurt us. Remaining angry does not punish the person who has hurt us so our anger achieves nothing.

Sometimes we feel if we stop being angry then the person who has caused us pain has escaped justice. This is a short sighted view. While there may appear to be no immediate ramifications for their bad behaviour, we can rest in the knowledge that God is a God of justice. If necessary, He will act on our behalf in his time and in his ways.

Forgiveness takes faith. Faith that God is a loving heavenly Father who feels our pain yet asks us to forgive because He knows that holding onto anger will only cause us even greater pain in the long term.

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Book Review : The life and times of the thunderbolt kid

Bill Bryson obviously believes in the old adage, "don’t spoil a good story with the facts"! Bryson is a great storyteller and "The life and times of the thunderbolt kid" (Doubleday, 2006) is full of supposedly biographical stories from his childhood. If half of the stories were accurate he and his friends would be in jail! However these stories are riotously funny – though sometimes rude and the language is unnecessary distasteful at times. In fact I wonder why Bryson resorts to bad language when he can tell such a funny story without it. He has a knack of being able to create a tone in his story which makes something absurd sound perfectly normal and therein lies the secret to his humour.

On a more serious note Bryson does include some historical material about America in the 1950’s. This gives context to his childhood adventures, as well as highlighting some parts of American history that most would like to forget. In some ways Bryson’s book is a stinging attack on American greed and racial prejudice interspersed with comic relief. Perhaps in line with the idea that a “spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”. It was rather odd to discover that both this book and the previous book I read, “A Fine Balance” tell of incidents where people had tried to exercise their right to vote and were killed because of it. Yet these two books probably had nothing else in common, except that I read them both as part of my library’s book club.

Overall, The life and times of the thunderbolt kid was an enjoyable read.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The precious gift of friendship

I’ve been a bit ‘awol’ lately. I’ve been having a busy time because there are some tasks I would like to complete before I finish at the library. Also the weekend just gone, in our part of the world, has been a ‘long’ weekend because of the Queen’s Birthday and I had some friends come to visit.

I have not actually seen these friends for 8 years and had only kept in contact by way of yearly Christmas letters. I first met them about 25 years ago and at that time we went through some common experiences which created a connection. However one is never quite sure how these connections are going to hold up over time and distance. We have both moved several times which would have made things difficult enough but then it turned out that they had jobs where they worked Saturdays and I had positions where I was unavailable on Sundays. However thanks to the ‘Queen’ we eventually managed to spend some time together and it was great.

It was surprising how much we still have in common and how many common experiences we have had in our long absences. Friendship really is a precious gift. It is such an encouragement to spend time with like minded people and feel understood and validated. Now that we are older and have less demanding family responsibilities we plan to make sure it isn’t 8 years before we catch up again.

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Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Devotional Thought: Luke 16:8-9

The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. Luke 16:8-9

Is God encouraging us to be dishonest? Hardly, that would not fit in with God’s character or Jesus’ teaching. Jesus is telling us that the people of this world are focused on getting ahead, making money, protecting themselves from financial ruin and in this regard they are often quite clever or shrewd. We see this in the story Jesus told. These people invest their time and money in what they perceive as important and in what will give them the most advantage. They have become successful as they understand it.

However they are short sighted. Jesus is encouraging us to look at the big picture. One day all our wealth and earthly success will be gone and what will we have to show for it? We cannot take our wealth with us when we die. However if we use our material wealth to invest in God’s kingdom, giving to ministries that challenge people to become Christians, giving our time to ministries that encourage people in their walk with God, we will find that we will reap eternal benefits. By investing in growing God’s kingdom now we will play a part in seeing people come to know Jesus and in eternity we will be welcomed by these very people who will see us as “friends”.

When we focus on the big picture and remember how fleeting our lives are we will see the importance of investing in eternal pursuits not earthly ones.

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Saturday, June 04, 2011

Losing my job

My part-time position at the library is being made redundant at the end of June. The library shares the building with the council and council staff check books in and out when I’m not there. They currently do not perform other library duties. The actions of council over the last few months have indicated to me that they do not consider what I do at the library valuable and anyone can do it.

Several days after I found out I was losing my job I went to have my eyes checked – I either need new glasses or longer arms! The man who was attending me asked heaps of questions about the work I do at the library. Then he said quite out of the blue, “What you do is really important.” He then talked about the small community where he lives and said, “The librarian is the lynch-pin of the community so what you do is really important.” I left the shop thinking that God had sent this man along just to encourage me.

Later when I was thinking about this I had an “ah-ha” moment. On the one hand the council is telling me what I do is not valuable and anyone can do it. On the other hand my optometrist is telling me that what I do is valuable. So it is entirely up to me whom I believe. This caused me to think that I’d really rather believe what God said about me rather than either of them.

When I reflected on what God said to me I remember that I was very much called to the job. God caused a large number of circumstances to coincide for me to have the job including the fact that he had orchestrated for me to have the necessary qualifications to do it. God thought it was valuable for me to do that job. While I don’t fully understand these recent events I do believe God directs my paths.

In Ephesians 3:10 we read: “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.”

This verse tells me there are things going on in the heavenly realms that I don’t know or understand but I can trust that God is working out his purposes. I believe God has other things for me to do and I’m sure God will reveal them in his good time. In the meantime I have 4 more weeks to enjoy being the librarian.

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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Devotional Thought : Luke 14:24

I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet. Luke 14:24

Jesus tells a parable in response to someone saying, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God” (v.14). Jesus take the opportunity to turn the thinking of the Pharisees on its head by teaching that those who think they are entitled to the blessings of the kingdom will miss out and those the Pharisees would consider unworthy are accepted.

In those times a banquet took a long time to prepare. They were also without modern means of communication like phones and emails. So when a banquet was going to be held an initial invitation was sent out to alert people. This gave them time to prepare, then a second invitation was given when a messenger would bring the news that all was ready.

Jesus shows us the inclusive nature of his kingdom. Twice the messenger is instructed to “Go out…” and invite anyone who will come. However people’s lack of commitment is shown by their weak excuses. Who would buy a field without looking at it? Or a yoke of oxen without checking them out? Or never go out just because they are recently married? These three examples cover the main things that block people’s commitment to God. That is: their status (as a land owner), their possessions (yoke of oxen), or their pleasure (recently married). Jesus makes it clear that some who expect to be included in the kingdom of God will not be because they won’t sacrifice their own desires and conveniences.

We see in this parable that it is not God who keeps people out of His kingdom but rather it is the choices people make that hinder them from entering.

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