Wednesday, October 26, 2011

One door shuts another opens

Yesterday I finished the course I started early last year. At the time I felt challenged to study the Bible – nothing more, nothing less just study the Bible. I wrote about this decision here and in February I wrote about my reaction to my first year, here.

It is interesting that in many ways the course has been life changing and I ended up studying more than just the Bible. In retrospect I wonder why this didn’t occur to me when I signed up for the Diploma. As well as Biblical subjects I also completed a couple of counselling subjects, pastoral care, ethics and missions. I have been greatly challenged, strengthened, encouraged and built up in my faith plus I have made many new friends. So while finishing the course is the end of something, it is also the beginning of the next thing God has for me.

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Book Review : Perfect Skin

Nick Earls creates a believable protagonist Jon, in Perfect Skin, (Melbourne, 2000). From early on in the book it is clear that Jon is in obvious emotional pain yet this is cleverly shown and not told. The precise details of his pain are slowly trickled out throughout the book. The book ends on a hopeful note as in the final few pages he seems to come to terms with his losses and is able to move forward into a new relationship.

For me the most disappointing thing about the book was the blurb. It refers to the story being funny and while there were some funny incidents, I found it difficult to laugh when you can feel Jon’s pain. Likewise the advertising for the book suggests that Jon expected to have his life sorted by the time he was thirty and he is surprised that he has not. This seems a ridiculous expectation given that his wife dies and an expectation that doesn’t have much support in the book. Did the person who designed the jacket read the book?

However I do agree that the book is warm and moving. The story delves into the issues of grief, guilt, single fathers and also explores the nature of male friendships.

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Book Reflection : Perfect Skin

I’ve recently been reading Perfect Skin by Nick Earls. On page 295 there is an insightful paragraph where a new (female) friend asks Jon, the central character, why he doesn’t talk to his friends about what it was like dealing with the death of his wife, Mel. This is his explanation:

With all the people you know, you’ve got this repertoire. There’s a range of things you can be. And outside that things feel weird. I’ve got a history with these people. I’ve known George half my life, and the others a while too. Just about as long, even though there was a gap in the middle. There’s a way we do things. Over time, you fall into a way of interacting with each other, and supporting each other. And that kind of talk isn’t what I want them for. I want to be okay. I want them for when I’m okay, even though I know they’d be there, whatever. They make that clear. George deferred his degree to cover for Mel not being there. We said it was just to cover for Mel, but he’s been covering for me too. We both know that. We both know how important it is, in a practical way. And we don’t have to keep talking about it. And I don’t want to handle that another way. I don’t want to change the way I relate to those people. I don’t want to remake my relationships based on how I deal with Mel’s death. I have the right to try to keep some things the same. What can I say, anyway? I don’t know what I’d say.

As a woman I find this difficult to understand, but if I try very hard I almost get it!

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Devotional Thought : Acts 8:13

Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw. Acts 8:13

Yet Simon still didn’t understand. In v.18 we read: When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

Simon saw something which he thought could be bought. Peter’s response is harsh: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin” (v.20-23).

Simon believed but was still full of bitterness and captive to sin. The “thought in his heart” did not changed as a result of his conversion. It is possible to go through the outward performance of faith and even be baptized but more is required to change the thoughts of the hearts. Simon was not even aware of the sin in his heart. How aware are we of what is in our heart? And how can we change if we are not even aware? For this reason Anglicans often say the following prayer:

Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of Thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love Thee, and worthily magnify Thy holy name: through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Devotional Thought : Acts 7:9

But God was with him (Joseph) and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Acts 7:9

This chapter contains Stephen’s speech to the Sanhedrin and we hear Israel's history from a Jewish Christian's point of view. Stephen tells us four things about Joseph – God was with Joseph; God rescued Joseph; God gave Joseph wisdom; God enabled to Joseph to gain good will.

God was with Joseph. Likewise Jesus’ desire was to be with his disciples. It was his first priority. “He appointed twelve that they might be with him…” Mark 3:14. God wants to be in relationship in his people and has gone to extraordinary lengthen to make this possible.

God rescued Joseph. God rescues us from the bondage of sin. His desire is for our freedom. “Whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it…they will be blessed in what they do” (James 1:25).

God gave Joseph wisdom and God will give us wisdom if we ask. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault” (James 1:5).

God enabled to Joseph to gain good will and likewise He will enable us to enjoy favour. “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor” (Psalm 84:11).

Sometimes we think that God orchestrated Joseph’s life in a rare way and the historical events are unrepeatable but nevertheless everything God did for Joseph he will do for us if we allow Him to lead and guide us. God wants to be with us, wants to rescue us from those things which seek to take us captive, wants to give us wisdom and favour. But the choice is ours.

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Friday, October 07, 2011

My annual sporting post

I don't often write about my sporting interests even though I find many parallels between sport and life. Some are obvious like teamwork, others are more subtle like the role of self belief.

The football team I follow, Geelong, won the grand final again this year which is amazing. After not winning a premiership for over 40 years, Geelong has now won 3 in 5 years. At the end of last year Geelong lost a couple of key people and most weren't expecting them to do so well this year. But sometimes key players aren't so 'key' afterall. Losing a team member can create an opportunity for someone else to step up.

Another sporting highlight for me was Sam Stosur winning the US Tennis Open last month. Hope she can keep her form going for the Aussie Open.

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Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Devotional Thought : Acts 6:2

It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Acts 6:2

The disciples had a clear idea of their area of ministry. This enabled them to say “yes” to activities that fitted with that and “no” to activities which didn’t. Likewise we need to know our area of ministry.

There are many tools available to help you discover this. The following is a simplistic one based on Ephesians 4:11*. The idea is to find the calling you most strongly relate to.

Apostles desire to see people work together, to see people nurtured and growing, see people released in their destiny. They like to bring people together who wouldn’t normally get together.

Prophets desire to hear the voice of the Lord. They value dreams. They ask: “What is God doing here?” “What is God saying?” They connect the natural with supernatural and sometimes feel disconnected with the world.

Evangelists are more concern for the lost than others. They share anything they are excited about. They love to meet new people. They see the hope in people and love to hear the gospel preached.

Pastors are more caring than most. They can even start caring about fictional characters! They love to listen, they ask follow up questions, take an interest and notice who’s missing.

Teachers love truth and the word of God. They love divine order. They communicate principles for godly living and don’t take things lightly. When they say yes they mean yes. They hunger for deep understanding and revelation and need time to think.

Of course, relating to one of these doesn’t mean you will end being a full time pastor or evangelist or whatever. It simply means this is your area of ministry or giftedness.

*I wrote more about this here.

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