Friday, September 30, 2011

Communion Thought

You are probably similar with the verse from 1 Corinthians 11:28 which says: “A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.”

I would like us to focus on the other occasion where Paul asks us to examine ourselves which is in 2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?

So we are to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. And how would we know?

The preceding verses to this say: He (that is Christ) is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him in our dealing with you.

Twice Paul’s uses the phrase “by God’s power”. It is by God’s power we live with Christ so we examine ourselves to see if we are living by God’s power. Paul expected there to be evidence of God’s power at work in their lives.

So are we living a life we couldn’t live unless God’s power is in us? Perhaps we can say if it wasn’t for God’s power in my life I wouldn’t be able to forgive that person…Perhaps we can say if it wasn’t for God’s power in my life I wouldn’t be able to control my anger…Perhaps we can say if it wasn’t for God’s power in my life I wouldn’t have peace and joy. For me I know I can say if it wasn’t for God’s power in my life I would not be able to give a speech. So what is for you? What does the power of God enable you to do that you would not otherwise be able to do?

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? What do we do if we fail the test?

1 Corinthians 1:18 says: For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

The message of the cross is the power of God. As we take the break and cup we remember what Jesus has done on the cross and we ask for his presence to come powerfully into our lives so it does make a difference.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Book Reflection : Eat pray love

To be honest I didn't expect to like this book. I knew from the reviews and the movie trailers that it contains a lot of "New Age" thinking. Yet I found the story intriguing. Gilbert investigates various spiritual ideas particularly in relation to mediation and supposedly has experiences that leave her with more peace and 'balance'. This is not always evidenced in her behaviour. I did some research and discovered that she is still with the man she began a relationship with towards the end of the book. This suggests to me that she did gain some healing and maturity through her year of travel.

I believe mediation in itself is neither good nor bad. It is simply a tool that helps us connect with the spiritual world so my question is always who or what are you connecting with when you mediate? If you are connecting with God, as reveal by Jesus Christ, then mediation is a great tool. However if you are opening yourself up through mediation to any and every spiritual power then I have concerns.

Gilbert explains her initial difficulties with mediation and I found myself relating to some of her frustrations. She talked of the difficulty of wandering thoughts and of sitting still for extended lengths of time. The same difficulties I have in my own prayer times. However as she persisted she eventually was able to focus for extended periods of time. It encouraged me to persist with my mediations on God and his word. At one point Gilbert explains that she understands prayer as asking God and meditation as listening to God. Even though my understanding of God would be different to Gilbert's I found this a helpful concept.

The thought that impacted me most from reading this book was the truth of James 5:16 (NKJV) "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." If Gilbert can apparently achieve so much through her secular mediation how much more as Christians can we tap into the true Source of enlightenment through mediating on God and his word.

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Book Review : Eat pray love

Eat pray love (New York, 2007) is an autobiographical account of one year in Elizabeth Gilbert’s life. It was the year she decided to travel the world and spend four months in Rome, four months in India and four months in Indonesia and the book is divided neatly between these places. Gilbert made the decision to travel following a traumatic divorce and an unfortunate rebound relationship. She realized that she had spent most of her life in and out of relationships with men and really didn’t know who she was outside of a relationship. The decision to visit India and Indonesia came out of chance encounters with spiritual leaders and her decision to visit Rome came about because she loves the Italian language.

Gilbert describes her attempts at Eastern spirituality in much detail. She also had the amazing knack of making friends of total strangers who often had interesting stories of their own.

Eat pray love is a remarkable story in many ways as Gilbert journeys through, not only physical countries, but also the landscape of her emotional baggage with the ongoing backdrop of her spiritual quest. Her honest account of her highs and lows is engaging and often entertaining.

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Book Reviews/Book Reflections

The book reviews I write tend to be of two different types. Firstly I write some book reviews that are factual accounts of the books and written for a wide audience. Secondly I write other book reviews which are more my reflections on the book and often contained my thoughts from a Christian perspective. Sometimes my book reviews are a combination of the two types.

I have decided on my blog to make a clearer distinction between these two types of book reviews. The first type I will continue to call book reviews and will be a more formal approach. While the second type I will call book reflections which will be about how the book has impacted me as a Christian. For some of the books I read I will write both types of reviews, particularly for books I read as part of my book club which are not Christian books. For other books I may only write one or the other.

Currently I am working on a book review for Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert which I will post soon.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Dame Slap's School

It seems whenever I venture back into the world of academia I am reminded of this story that I read when I was a kid. (Amazing that I even remember it!) Now maybe it is just me, but I find that the questions teachers set just aren't very clear.

The story is from the Enid Blyton classic, The Folk of the Faraway Tree and the children have unwittingly end up in Dame Slap's School:

"The more the children looked at the three questions on the board, the more they felt certain they could never answer them. Moon-Face turned to Connie, 'Quick! Tell us the right answers. You said you were good at lessons.'

Connie read the first question. 'Three blackbirds sat on a cherry tree. They ate one hundred and twenty-three of the cherries. How many were left?'

'Well, how can we say, unless we know how many there were in the beginning?' asked Connie, out loud. 'What a silly question!'

Jo read the next one out loud. 'If there are a hundred pages in a book, how many books would there be on the shelf?'

'The questions are just nonsense,' said Moon-Face gloomily.

'They were before, when we were here,' said Jo.

The third question was very short. Jo read it out. 'Why is a blackboard?'

'Why is a blackboard!' repeated Silky. 'There is no sense in that question either.'

'Well – the questions are nonsense, so we'll put down answers that are nonsense,' said Jo.

So they put down 'none' about how many cherries were left on the tree. Then they read the book-question again. And again they put down 'none'.

'We are not told that the shelf was a book shelf,' said Jo. 'It might be a shelf for ornaments, or a bathroom shelf for glasses and tooth-brushes and things. There wouldn't be any books there.'

The third question was a puzzler. 'Why is a blackboard?'

Jo ran out of his place and rubbed out the two last words. He wrote them again – and then the question read 'Why is a board black?'

'We can easily answer that,' said Jo, with a grin. 'Why is a board black? So that we can write on it with white chalk!'

So, when Dame Slap came back, the only people who had answered all the questions were Jo, Silky, Moon-Face and Connie! Dame Slap beamed at them.

'Dear me, I have some clever children at last! she said. 'You have written answers to all the questions.'

'Then they are right?' asked Silky, in wonder.

'I don’t know,' said Dame Slap. 'But that doesn't matter. It’s the answers I want. I don’t care what’s in them, so long as you have written answers. I don’t know the answers myself, so it’s no good my reading them.'"

Blyton, E. (1997) The Folk of the Faraway Tree. London: Mammoth, p. 95-97

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Devotional Thought : Acts 5:13-14

No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number Acts 5:13-14

This comes immediate after the death of Ananias and Sapphira. Not surprisingly people no longer "dared join" the believers lightly. Perhaps Ananias and Sapphira had tried to give the impression that they were committed to Christ by making a large donation. Perhaps they were trying to make themselves look good in the eyes of the believers. Perhaps they were trying to gain acceptance by being associated with something new and exciting. But God was not fooled. Making what appeared to be a sacrificial offering yet being deceitful revealed what was really in their hearts. God would not risk Ananias and Sapphira’s casual attitude spreading through his brand new church and they both died.

The ones who were "added to their number" were the ones who had made a genuine commitment. They were the ones who truly believed and made a whole hearted commitment to the Lord. We then read of miraculous healings. The power of God was obvious (v.15-16). God’s power does not manifest itself when there is a casual attitude. God is not found by the casual seeker. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

We may be able to create a good impression. We may make large donations to the Lord’s work. We may appear to be sacrificial but God knows our heart. The church is no longer brand new so we are unlikely to be struck down by God because of a casual attitude. However we will miss seeing God’s power displayed if we are not genuine believers.

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Working again

It’s good to be working again! I started my new job this week. It is a temporary part-time position for six months filling in for someone who is having a baby. It is a library job but not in a branch. I look after digital and information services. While I have some experience and skills, I have not worked in a paid capacity in this area before so it is a learning curve. It will actually be an opportunity to improve my skills. I think I am going to enjoy this position very much.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Devotional Thought : Acts 4:13

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. Acts 4:13

Peter and John were unschooled, ordinary men yet because they had been with Jesus, people could see the difference. They saw their courage. Jesus had recently been crucified yet his followers were unafraid to proclaim the same message that got Jesus killed. Their courage wasn’t something they manufactured. It came from the Presence of God in their lives.

This verse reminds me of similar verses from Exodus: Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33:15-16).

It is not what we do that makes people realize we are Christians. People can be law abiding citizens without God. People can help others without God. People can be philanthropists without God. The thing which sets us apart is the Presence of God because it changes us on the inside. We can’t manufacture it or fake it. It comes from God and comes about because we have spent time with Jesus.

It is only when we allow God to fill our lives with His Presence that it will become obvious to others. This doesn’t happen when we are full of ourselves. It doesn’t become obvious until we have died to ourselves, our ambitions, our preferences, our desires.

Is any one astonished because of what God has done in our lives? Does anyone notice that we have been with Jesus?

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Friday, September 09, 2011

An atheist with a noble heart

I stumbled across this newspaper article by Matthew Parris which was published in The Times three years ago – December 27, 2008. The headline is amazing: As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God. And the sub-title: Missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa's biggest problem - the crushing passivity of the people's mindset.

If you would like to read the whole article click here.

I admire Matthew Parris’ courage and honesty in publishing this article. It is heartening to see an atheist grapple with the gap between his beliefs and his experience.

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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Job interviews

One of my pet hates in life is job interviews, particularly for library jobs. I have been applying for library jobs lately and have been invited to attend a couple of interviews. I generally walk into an interview thinking, "Ok, for the next 20 minutes I need to act like an extrovert." This is really quite bizarre given that the best librarians I know are introverts. One of the things that would greatly help introverts is to be given the interview questions in advance so they had time to process them. Why do interviewers require applicants to be spontaneous when there is nothing in the job position that requires them to be spontaneous?

Nevertheless I have been offered a job...still some finer details to finalize.

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Friday, September 02, 2011

Book Review : The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larrson as part of my book club. It is not a book I would ordinarily read. However I found the story intriguing. It is well written with interesting characters. It is a cleverly structured book and it is not until about three quarters of the way through the book that the reader becomes aware that the story is not just about the disappearance of a missing girl but rather the exposing of a serial rapist/murderer. The perpetrator is a highly respected person in the community. This seems implausible to me but it makes for a great story.

Considering the topic there is, naturally enough, a great deal of violence and sexual activity that is crude. There were several passages that I skimmed over. (At times it made Midsomer Murders look like a Sunday School picnic!) I believe they have made a movie based on the book but I certainly won’t be going to see it. The visual representation would be more graphic than what I can imagine.

Steig Larsson has written a second and third book in this series but abruptly died before any were published. I feel no need to read the other books in the series as this one had a completely satisfactory ending. While I enjoyed this book it was too violent for me to want to read more of the same.

**Just one further thing, if you have read the book perhaps you could explain to me why Martin lied about seeing Harriet on the day of her disappearance?

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