Saturday, March 30, 2013

Youth Ministry

I resumed studying about a month ago and one of my subjects this semester is youth ministry, which is rather appropriate as I am involved in the commencement of a youth group at my church.

One of the most interesting things about youth these days is that they are looking for a mission, a project, something bigger than themselves that they can invest their lives in. Many look for this in environmental issues or social justice issues which are important but often hard work and not very fruitful.

The other thing they are looking for is community, friendship and connection with others. Many look for this in social media but it is a shallow substitute for real engagement with others.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, these are also two things than many adults are looking for.

The gospel of Jesus Christ fulfils both these needs. God has a plan and purpose for everyone’s lives and we are never too young or too old to be about God’s business. His plan is sweeping, compelling, and eternally significant. His plan is to bring heaven to earth. “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Furthermore God’s intention is that we fulfil his plan together, in cooperation with others, thus fulfilling our need for community.

Yet engaging in God’s purpose asks a great deal of us. It requires we give up our agendas, our preferences, and our plans. A huge price but ultimately a great reward, which reminds me of the story Jesus told in Matthew 13:44-46.

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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Book Review : The Back Leg of a Goat

The Back Leg of a Goat by Penny Reeve is another adventure story in the life of Tania Abbey. It is the third one I have read though it was actually written first. These stories are all stand alone so it is not necessary to read them in order.

This particular story involves raising money to buy a goat for a poor family in India. The goat would not only be a source of fresh milk but also the start of a goat raising business. Initially Tania only has enough money to buy, perhaps, the back leg but soon she has a plan…

I have enjoyed this series of book because it helps children to think about the difference they can make in the world. God does not consider children too young to do something to help someone else. It also encourages them to have their own relationship with God and this aspect of faith was handled well.

The Back Leg of a Goat is a fun story for primary school children and well worth a read.

Thanks to Penny Reeve for providing a free book for review. Reveiws of the other books in the Tania Abbey series: Water or Goo and More than a mouse.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

FaithWriters

The Home for Christian writers!! Very excited that FaithWriters are currently displaying one of my devotional thoughts on their site here. It is called, "One of them" and is about Easter. After 24 hours it will go into their archives.

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Monday, March 25, 2013

Devotional Thought : Matthew 24:45-46

Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. Matthew 24:45-46

These verses are in the context of Jesus’ second coming yet they also hold a larger truth, servants who are faithful and wise will continue to fulfil their tasks reliably, even when they are not being watched.

Over the years theologians have used the Latin phrase, ‘Coram Deo’, meaning ‘in the presence of God’ to express the idea that we live our lives in front of an unseen audience of One. Realizing God’s omnipresence is motivation for living a life pleasing to him. There is nowhere that is off limits to God. Our exchanges with our friends, our interaction with our families, how we spend our time when we are alone, are all Coram Deo.

When we become aware of the presence of God we also become aware of his sovereignty and his holiness. There are several accounts of people in the Bible suddenly becoming aware of the presence of God. Isaiah in the temple (Isaiah 6:5), Peter following the large catch of fish (Luke 5:8), Paul on the Damascus road (Acts 9:4) and John on the island of Patmos (Revelation 1:17), all their reactions suggest they were overwhelmed with both the sovereignty and holiness of God.

In each of these instances God was quick to relieve their fears. God doesn’t want his people living in fear of reprimand. His presence is a loving presence which causes us to want to please him.

Are we faithful and wise servants who do not need constant supervision and encouragement to do the ‘right’ thing?

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Friday, March 22, 2013

Blog Tour : More Than A Mouse

This month's second tour is for: More Than A Mouse by Penny Reeve. My book review can be found here. This book is part of a blog tour organized by the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance.


18 - 22 March


is introducing

More Than A Mouse

(Hyaline House Publishing, April 2013)


by
Penny Reeve

(preorder from Penny's website)

About the book: Tania Abbey is so excited. She’s waited and waited and it’s finally her turn to bring Pepperoni, the class mouse, home for a week. But her mum isn’t convinced – not with Gran coming to stay - and when Tania’s brother Daniel is involved in a serious accident, the little black and white mouse doesn’t seem quite so important after all. Unimportant, that is, until one night Pepperoni decides to escape...


About the Author:
Penny Reeve grew up as the child of missionary parents in a variety of cross cultural settings. She then went to university, got married and served for several years herself in PNG and Nepal. She now lives with her family in Western Sydney and is the author of 11 children’s books including the very popular Find the Animal series for young children and the social-justice themed Tania Abbey novels. Website: www.peenyreeve.com

Genre: Children’s Fiction

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Book Review : More than a mouse

This week, More than a mouse, is being featured on the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance. Information about the author and more details about the book can be found here.

More than a mouse is a fun story for primary school children. It is another story with Tania Abbey as the main character. Tania is an ordinary girl living an ordinary life and therefore easy for children to identity with, yet she also seeks to live out her Christian beliefs. It is mostly a down to earth story with every day people and real life situations. The story encourages children to trust God.

However one element in this story did concern me a little. Fictitious stories of significant healings are a bit too convenient. God does answer prayer and heal but there are also times when he does not. This possibility was not fully examined. For this reason I feel the story would have been better if Tania’s brother had not been quite so badly injured.

Apart from this minor criticism, it is a good story and well worth a read.

Thanks to Penny Reeve for providing a free book for review.

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Monday, March 18, 2013

Devotional Thought : Matthew 23:27

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean." Matthew 23:27

Jesus loved the Pharisee but he didn't hesitate to confront them over their behaviour as this verse points out. Likewise in his dealings with the woman at the well Jesus didn't hesitate to point out her problem, "You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband" (John 4:17-18). Yet in dealing with the women caught in adultery (John 8:1-11) Jesus is much more subtle in his approach. Different situations call for different reactions.

Jesus always acted in the best interests of the person he was dealing with whether that was to be confrontational, or more subtle. Jesus’ love for people meant that he was sensitive to where they were at and this was why his love was radical and unpredictable. Jesus dealt with the reasons behind people’s behaviour. He didn’t need to tell the woman at the well or the woman caught in adultery that their behaviour was wrong, they already knew. However they did need Jesus to free them from the bondage their behaviour and the lies they believed had created. It was through love and forgiveness that these women would find the strength to live righteous lives in the future.

However the Pharisees needed a strong reprimand over their behaviour since they didn’t even realize what they were doing was wrong. To leave the Pharisees unchallenged in their hypocrisy would not have been loving.

It is a huge challenge for us as we learn to love people the way Jesus did.

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Friday, March 15, 2013

Book Review : Fine Lines

In Fine Lines, Aliki Flodine has chosen seven areas in the spiritual arena where Christians are often unclear. Aliki uses the term ‘fine lines’ to describe how easy it is to stray from the truth and into error. The seven areas she has chosen to write about are: bravery and faith; gloss and polish; fellowship and relationship; punishment and consequence; righteous and moral; wresting and fighting; and rest and laziness. Some of these terms are very similar and sometimes the way they play out in our lives may be similar but it is important to understand the difference.

Aliki does a great job of explaining and illustrating these different areas through examples from her own spiritual journey. Aliki is honest about her struggles and her mistakes which makes her writing encouraging. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on wresting and fighting. This is not a topic that is often discussed and I found Aliki’s approach very helpful.

This is just a short book but contains a lot of practical teaching.

Worth a read.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Devotional Thought : Matthew 22:24

“Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him.” Matthew 22:24

In the following verses we see the Sadducees make up a fictitious, ridiculous situation to make a point to support their own view about the resurrection. They didn’t seem to give any thought as to why Moses would tell men to marry their brother’s widow; which was to protect women who were widowed early in their life and give them economic security.

It is disturbing to see Christians do this today, that is, take a passage of Scripture and twist it to reinforce their own preconceived beliefs and ignore the original meaning. Until we examine what the original readers understood by a particular command or practice it is hard to apply it to our own lives.

Many of the prohibitions in the Old Testament were because God did not want his people to do those things which the nations around Israel did as part of their pagan worship. For example, “‘Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard…or put tattoo marks on yourselves” (Leviticus 19:27-28). These were practices that pagan nations associated with witchcraft. There was nothing wrong with these practices in themselves. The problem came when they were connected with forms of idolatry and demonic activities.

When we read the Scriptures, a commentary or other Bible guide is very useful, particularly where the customs and practices are so different to our society. When we investigate deeper we will discover that God’s heart for his people is always to act with kindness and compassion towards others and separate ourselves from practices that are detrimental to our physical and spiritual health.

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Monday, March 11, 2013

Book Review : Broken wing butterfly

Renee Bennett has written and published (2009) a sensitive and touching book, Broken Wing Butterfly, for young women who have grown up in homes where there has been family conflict and breakdown.

Renee is a pastor but the book is written from a practical perspective not a spiritual one. The five chapters move through the feelings and issues that girls encounter as a result of their parents relationship breakdown and endeavours to bring them to a place of healing and resolution. There are questions and opportunities to journal personal experiences throughout the book.

While I haven’t experienced this type of family break down myself I found the book covered all the essential elements of emotional healing – re-evaluating the situation more accurately; acknowledging the pain and loss, not accepting responsibility for events where the person was not at fault; forgiveness; and redefining the future.

Children will always experience some level of rejection no matter how well a family break up is handled and this book is a valuable resource for young women who have been through this experience.

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Friday, March 08, 2013

Devotional Thought : Matthew 21:10

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” Matthew 21:10

In Daniel 9:25 we read, “Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens’ (Daniel 9:25).”

Some students of prophecy have determined that the day Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey was the day that completed all the ‘sevens’ of Daniel’s prophecy. Furthermore it is believed that Jesus entered the city through the same gate as the sacrificial lambs that were being prepared for Passover. These lambs had to be examined to make sure they were “without defect” (Exodus 12:5).

Likewise Jesus was ‘examined’ by the religious leaders of his day. But in the end, “No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions” (Matthew 22:46). God arranged the details of Jesus’ final days with such precision to fulfil not only many prophesies from the Old Testament, but also many of the customs.

God’s attention to detail is so apparent in these events. In every possible way Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the law so that “not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen” would disappear from the law until Jesus accomplished its fulfilment (Matthew 5:18). With this achieved through Jesus’ death, we are free from the requirements of the law and no longer need to continually make sacrifices for the forgiveness of our sins.

Now we can live without guilt or shame because our sins, past, present and future have been fully dealt with by Jesus, our Passover Lamb (1 Peter 1:19). We rest in the knowledge that God’s plan of salvation was fully accomplished.

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Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Blog Tour : Tangled Secrets

This month's fiction blog tour is for: Tangled Secrets. I recently read this book and my book review can be found here. This book is part of a blog tour organized by the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance.


4 – 8 March


is introducing

(Even Before Publishing September 2012)


by Carol Preston


About the Author

Carol lives in Wollongong, NSW with her husband, Neil. As well as writing novels based on her family history, Carol has a private counselling practice and enjoys reading, gardening, spending time with her four grandchildren and bushwalking. She has pursued with great admiration the lives of her ancestors in Australia and has greatly enjoyed writing novels based on their stories and the inspiring history of the Australian people. For more information about Carol's books and her other interests she can be contacted on her website: www.carolpreston.com.au

About the book

In tragic circumstances Beth and her brothers are left in England to grow up without their parents. When Beth's childhood dream to be reunited with her father in Australia finally eventuates she finds that dreams do not always come true.The reality she faces is a tangled web of disappointment, deceit and mistakes. Further abandonment follows. Will she ever find true love? And will she discover she doesn't have to be alone before it is too late?Set in the early colonial days of New South Wales and based on real characters in the mid 1800s.Revisit Charlotte and Thomas from Charlotte's Angel and Mary's Guardian, and meet new characters in this new novel by Carol Preston. Mary's Guardian was a finalist in the fiction section of CALEB 2011.

Genre: Fiction

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Monday, March 04, 2013

How do we receive?

Earlier today I wrote a post for Christian Writers Downunder about receiving gifts.

Check it out here.

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Friday, March 01, 2013

Devotional Thought : Matthew 20:15

"Or are you envious because I am generous?" Matthew 20:15

Do you ever think that God blesses the wrong people? The workers in the vineyard who worked all day seem to be the hard working, conscientious Christians. Yet they only received the standard payment. The other workers who did nothing for a good part of the day, who seemed to be a bit slack and less committed are rewarded with the same amount. Is this fair?

There are several things to consider. Firstly our perspective is very earth bound. I don’t know what is going on in the hearts of those people who God chooses to bless more than others. I don’t know their attitudes, motives and very often I really don’t know what is going on in their day to day lives.

Secondly God is free to bless whoever he chooses, whenever he chooses, with whatever he chooses. Like the workers in the vineyard God is free to pay them whatever he chooses. I need to acknowledge God is in charge.

While this parable may challenge my ideas of fairness I also need to remember that God was not being unfair since the workers who laboured all day were paid the agreed amount. They were not short changed.

The parable also challenges my ideas on God’s goodness. Is God going to treat others better than he treats me? Is God going to have my best interests at heart or is he more interested in helping someone else? Yet God was good to all the workers. They all got paid.

This parable reminds me, like Jesus reminded Peter on the beach (John 21:21-22), to mind my own business. I have to follow God’s plans for my life and not concern myself with what God is doing in other people’s lives.

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