Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Book Review : Whatever happened to the twelve apostles?

Whatever happened to the twelve apostles? is a well researched book, not only into the history of the twelve apostles, but also other key historical figures from the early days of the church.

The New Testament is surprisingly quiet about the lives of the twelve apostles following Pentecost, perhaps because this information was common knowledge to the early Christians and because they expecting Jesus to return in their life time. So it was not thought necessary to keep records of the missionary journeys of the apostles. Therefore it is a difficult task finding this information. Nevertheless Elva Schroeder has done an amazing job of examining historical documents and books which investigate the lives of the first Christians. She then presents the material in such an easy to read way that even a high school student would be able to understand it.

While much of the evidence is not conclusive the weight of evidence would suggest the conclusions Elva comes to are highly probable.

An informative book which is easy to read.

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Monday, January 28, 2013

Devotional Thought : Matthew 13:8

Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Matthew 13:8

The good soil produced vastly different rates of returns, 100, 60, 30. There is a lot of difference between a return rate of 100 compared to 30. Even good soil sometimes yields a surprisingly small return.

What makes the difference in the results? In the physical world we would consider lack of rain, lack of warmth, and lack of nutrients. The seed is reliant not only on the farmer but also on nature to provide what it needs.

In the spiritual realm this would equated to a lack of spiritual resources. Yet Peter tells us that God has provided everything we need to live the Christian life. “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life” (2 Peter 2:3).

If we want to be those who produce a hundred times what was sown it is not enough just to be good soil. We have to avail ourselves of all the resources God provides, through his word, prayer, fellowship and other spiritual disciplines. Jesus tells us that the seed falling on good soil refers not only to someone who hears the word but acts on it (13:23).

Sometimes we can be disappointed that those who appear to have every advantage in the Christian life – Christian parents, Christian heritage, good church environment – are not the ones who have the most impact, or the ones who seem to produce the 100 times what was sown. Sometimes it is those with the least advantages who are more serious about their faith and more committed to applying God’s word to their lives.

Nevertheless in God we all have the opportunity to produce a hundred times what was sown.

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Friday, January 25, 2013

Blog Tour : God's Poetry

This month's non-fiction blog tour is for: God's Poetry by Anne Hamiliton. I recently read and enjoyed this book. I posted a book review on Wednesday which can be found here. This book is part of a blog tour organized by the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance.

21-25 January

is introducing

(Even Before Publishing, September 2012)

by Anne Hamilton

About the Author:
Anne Hamilton, a longtime writer and mathematician, has a number of publications to her name. Anne has a trilogy of short books about how maths integrates with God’s great creation called The Singing Silence, The Winging Word and The Listening Land. She has just had published her 27 year project a young adult fantasy Many-Coloured Realm.

Short Book Description:
What’s in a name? Shakespeare said a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. But is that true? Are names simply labels to be swapped around indiscriminately? Or are they more significant? God’s Poetry is about identity and destiny as well as the ancient concept of the power of names to body forth purpose and meaning. It’s also about why most of us never come into the calling prophetically breathed into what we are called.

Genre: Non Fiction

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Book Review : God's poetry

This week, God's Poetry is being featured on the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance. Information about the author and more details about the book can be found here.

The title of this book comes from Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s workmanship” – since workmanship can also be translated “poem”. God sees our life and destiny as a poem he is writing. God’s Poetry encourages Christians to seek God’s purposes and destiny for their lives and not be content with a mediocre spiritual life. However for many reasons we don’t always experience all that God has for us. Sometimes it is because we are simply not aware of it or it may because Satan has restricted our spiritual growth in some way.

Throughout the Bible we see references to names, their meanings and their power to affect circumstances. In our Western culture we tend to regard names as nothing more than labels. However in God’s economy they are still important and God may use the understanding our name to spur us on in our spiritual journey. It is also another avenue God employs to minister emotional healing to us.

Anne Hamilton shares from personal experience and from her research into her own name as well the names of other people and Biblical characters. Her conclusions are startling and appear fanciful yet she backs up her claims with so many examples that you realize that is something going on in the process of naming that is beyond rational explanation.

In order for Anne to explain the depth and breadth of her understanding of names, it necessitated many historical descriptions, plus she has added quotes from other works – factual, fictional and fantasy to add validity, variety and interest for the reader.

It is a fascinating book, a little heavy going at times, but certainly one that provides much food for thought.

Thanks to Even Before Publishing for providing a free book for review.

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Lance Armstrong & Empirical Testable Demonstrable Evidence

Science puts so much weight on empirical, testable, demonstrable evidence, yet it wasn’t all the scientific testing they did on Lance Armstrong that brought him undone. It was the eye witness accounts. When enough people said, "I saw Lance Armstrong taking performance enhancing drugs," he could no longer deny it. Most of the hundreds of tests they did on Armstrong were clean and even the one or two that may have been doubtful were easily explained away. But in the end, the eye witnesses could not be silenced.

Likewise science likes to tell Christians that God can’t be real because there isn’t empirical, testable, demonstrable evidence for his existence. I have written about the topic of God and science many times, most recently here and here. The point I’d like to make now is that the eye witness accounts of Christians over the last 2,000 years makes for compelling reading. From an insignificant group of disciples came the greatest movement the world has ever seen. This movement created hospitals, schools, universities, impacted music, the arts and science. Christ followers changed the values of their societies. They taught compassion, valued humility and had respect for all people. (Incidentally this is the subject of John Ortberg’s new book, Who is this man?)

If science is going to be true to its roots and investigate all the evidence, it has to consider the eye witness accounts.

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Devotional Thought : Matthew 11:25

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Matthew 11:25

God shows his grace by revealing truth to children, that is, those who have child-like faith. But it is also grace to hide truth from the wise and learned, that is, the proud. The proud will not acknowledge God, so it is better to hide spiritual truth from them. God is just and he will judge people based on their response to the truth they have been given. He will take into consideration the opportunity people have had. So if they are proud and hard hearted then hiding truth is a merciful thing to do since it lessens their accountability.

Later Jesus explains this is the reason why he taught in parables. If people did not accept the basic truth of Jesus being the Messiah, then additional truth would not help them. And in fact condemns them, because they would now have more truth they are not responding too. Speaking in parables limited their responsibility.

We may think God is being harsh by without holding information to some without realizing that he is in fact being much kinder than we realize.

As Constable writes in his commentary "…the greater the revelation, the greater the accountability."

It is a sobering thought to realize that here in the West, where we have an abundance of Bibles and other resources, we are more accountability than those who do not this abundant access to God’s truth. Regardless, we can take comfort from the fact that God is just and merciful. He knows our limitations. Remembering too that, Romans 1:20 teaches that we have all been given the opportunity of acknowledging God.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Book Review : Marty's Nut Free Party

Marty’s Nut Free Party is a children’s book by Katrina Roe. It tells the story of Marty who is allergic to peanuts. In simple terms the book describes what happens when Marty eats peanuts and how difficult it is for him to avoid even traces of peanuts. It also describes how isolating a food allergy can be. The book contains much helpful information in a fun format. There is also information for parents regarding allergies and useful contact details at the back of the book.

Leigh Hedstrom has done a great job illustrating the book with pictures that capture the tone of the story.

Not only a fun story to read to children but also a useful resource.

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Monday, January 14, 2013

Devotional Thought : Matthew 6:27

"Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" Matthew 6:27

The point Jesus is making is that worrying will make no difference to the situation. However sometimes we trick ourselves into thinking that we are achieving something by worrying. We may think that we are showing love and concern for our friend by worrying about them. Choosing not to worry seems like we are letting down those closest to us. Alternatively some people do the opposite and feel that by ignoring the problem and not worrying they are displaying trust in their friend's ability to solve their own problems.

Yet the Biblical view is to pray and trust in God, which is an active thing to do and not simply a way of denying that there is a problem. 1 Peter 5:7 tells us to "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." This is the view that neither denies nor ignores the problem but places our focus on our heavenly Father. Trusting God and prayer will make a difference since it releases faith into the situation and gives God the opportunity to move in the circumstances.

Sometimes we feel guilty when we stop worrying and trusting God, because we feel a sense of peace and joy while our friend may be really struggling. However it is not God’s intention that we assume responsibility for other people’s problems, even if that person is our child or spouse. The best way of supporting someone is to pray and trust God.

Philippians 4:6 tells us "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

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Friday, January 11, 2013

Blog Tour : A Simple Mistake

Following the Christmas break, this month's fiction blog tour is for: A Simple Mistake by Andrea Grigg. I recently read and enjoyed this book. I posted a book review on Wednesday which can be found here. This book is part of a blog tour organized by the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance.

7 - 11 January

is introducing

(Wombat Books 1 April 2012)

by Andrea Grigg

About the Author:
Andrea Grigg grew up in Auckland, New Zealand, but has lived most of her life in Australia. She lives with her husband on Queensland's Gold Coast, where they have raised their three adult children – two daughters and a son. If she isn't teaching ten-year-olds, being a domestic executive or socialising, Andrea can be found in her cave, writing stories.

Short Book Description:
When Nick and Lainey meet again after 10 years so much has changed. Nick is now a famous celebrity and Lainey is the girl he left behind. As a member of a highly successful band and with an emerging acting career Nick can have any girl he wants. Now he wants Lainey back.

They had been so close when growing up, but after Nick left to seek fame and fortune, Lainey had never heard from him again. Now she has moved on from what she felt for Nick as a teenager. Or has she?

After discovering what kept them apart for so long, they tentatively rekindle their past romance. The feelings are just as strong as before but can Lainey accept Nick's lack of faith? And can their new relationship survive Lainey's secret?

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

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Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Book Review : A Simple Mistake

This week, A Simple Mistake is being featured on the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance. Information about the author and more details about the book can also be found here.

A Simple Mistake begins with the reunion of two childhood sweethearts, Lainey and Nick, who were separated for ten years by a simple mistake – a muddled address. But much has changed in that ten years. Most significantly Lainey has grown in her faith and become a committed Christian whereas Nick has not. Although he believes there is a God he is unwilling to surrender his life to him.

*Spoiler Alert*

This scenario makes for a very interesting story and Andrea Grigg does a great job of examining the issues of marrying someone who doesn’t share your understanding of faith. I suspect some Christians may not appreciate the fact that it took Lainey six months before she comes to the conclusion she needed to end the relationship. However in the context of the story and their shared history I thought this was acceptable. While the story does have a ‘happily ever after’ ending there are many obstacles and issues to work through in the process. I like the way Nick’s journey to faith is gradual and many people and incidents play a part over a long period of time giving a realistic feel to the story. I also thought the God-incidences were handled well.

Overall a great read.

Thanks to Even Before Publishing for providing a free book for review.

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Monday, January 07, 2013

Go to the ant

Earlier today I wrote a post for Christian Writers Downunder about ants! And the lessons they can teach us.

Check it out here.

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Saturday, January 05, 2013

Analysis of blog posts

When I started this blog 8 years ago I called it A-book-look because I was expecting most of my posts to be about books. During the summer I have been doing some research and discovered that up until 31 December 2012, 327 (31%) of my posts were devotional thoughts based on a particular Bible verse. I have written 216 (20%) formal book reviews and a further 84 (8%) more general posts about books. I guess if you count the Bible as a book then 59% of my posts are about books!

The other 41% of posts have covered a wide range of topics including thoughts arising from news reports, sporting events, sermons, poems, songs, quotes, movies, conferences, seminars, holidays, my work in libraries and my life in general. I also discovered that I write 2.7 posts per week.

I continue to find lots to write about and hope you will continue to find articles here that pique your interest and encourage you in your Christian walk.

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Friday, January 04, 2013

Book Review : Sarah's Gift

It took me several chapters to connect with Sarah’s Gift by Skye Wieland because I am not a horse lover and don’t have a real interest in African wildlife which is the prominent context of this story. The main character, Sarah works for a safari company in South Africa who take tourists to see native wildlife in its natural habitat on horse back. While Sarah is Australian there was little else in the story to pull me in until the plot developed. However as the plot unfolded I found myself getting more and more captivated.

There are strong Christian elements throughout the book but as many were original and at times, supernatural, I found this intriguing. (Others may not, and some Christians may even struggle with the likelihood of some scenes.) One of the Christian themes, reflected in the title, is our giftedness. God wants us to use our gifts even if they are don’t seem particularly spiritual or useful in the world’s eyes.

The story also touches on issues that have affected South Africa for many years such as the ivory trade, elephant culling and the ramifications of apartheid.

I did not find this book particularly well written but the strength of the story helped overcome this problem and I ended up enjoying the story.

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Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Devotional Thought : Matthew 10:28

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” Matthew 10:28

It reads like this in the Message: “Don’t be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies. There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being.”

Bullying has become wide spread in our schools and work places. It is a tactic of the devil. However the devil has no teeth, he is a defeated foe who can do no permanent damage to the people of God, that’s why he roars like a lion. In 1 Peter 5:8 we read: “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” A lion in the wild sneaks up on his prey. He does not roar when he is looking for his next meal. Unlike the devil who roars in order to intimated and arouse fear in those who oppose him, hoping they will concede to his bluff.

When we look at bullying in the world we see it is actually an effective tool in getting one’s own way. Since many feel it is not worth the fight and they just cave into the domination of others rather than call their bluff. However this is not a long term solution as it merely empowers the bully to continue and even increase their taunts.

As we take a stand against bullying, both in the physical and spiritual world, we cannot be silenced by fear or intimidation. We will win the battle by standing in all of God’s armour as outlined for us in Ephesians 6:14-17. We are strengthened by his Spirit as we rely on his truth, his righteousness, his peace, his faith, his salvation, and his word.

We won’t win this battle in our own strength but in God’s.

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