Friday, May 31, 2013

Quote by Constable

"However, we should not conclude that the Spirit forces us to do God's will. He does not lead us that strongly. The Holy Spirit leads us to do the moral will of God. He does this primarily through Scripture by helping us understand the will of God as He has revealed it there. Furthermore He motivates us to do what we know to be right, and He provides the power for us to obey God (Phil. 2:13). We can overcome the flesh by siding with the Spirit."
Dr. Constable's Notes on Galatians 2010 Edition

I read this quote a little while ago when I was studying Galatians 5. The sentence that stayed with me was: He does not lead us that strongly.

So often we would like God to lead us more strongly. We would like well lit paths, clear signposts and secure pathways. However, what we find is light for the next step. The Christian life is a walk of faith, learning to hear the voice of the Spirit and trusting God for the next step.

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Devotional Thought : Mark 8:34

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Mark 8:34

Too often I hear Christians talking about what they want. What sort of church service they would like. What sort of fellowship events they expect. What sort of help they want to give. How often do we ask God want He wants? Furthermore how often are we really doing something for God and not just doing something to make ourselves feel better? How often are our motives truly pure?

To deny ourselves, is to deny of our preferences, our ambitions, and our preferred options. The disciples didn't really understand this until Pentecost. Up until then they were still thinking about going fishing (John 21:3) and still thinking about a physical kingdom (Acts 1:6). At Pentecost they experienced God’s enabling power that motivated them to deny themselves and spread the gospel.

I believe mature believers should be setting the example in this area, particularly when it comes to preferences in church services styles. Statistically most people come to faith before they are 25 so if our churches are going to reach these people we need to plan our services to appeal to teenagers and young adults. If you are over 25, like me, we can no longer expect church services to be run according to our preferences. We ought to be mature enough to feed ourselves anyway. It is now about what we can do to encourage young people in their faith. It is also about learning to connect with God through whatever means the worship leader presents us with, modern songs, readings, prayers, meditations, regardless of whether it is our preference.

Of course, church services are just one area where mature believers deny their preferences. Perhaps you can think of others?

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Monday, May 27, 2013

Book Review : Car Park Parables

Paul Clark has written a series of books where cars are used to depict human characters. This is particularly attractive for preschool and primary school boys. The stories are mostly adapted from Bible stories. They are well written in a fun way that will capture children's attention.

The illustrations by Graham Preston are well drawn and appropriate to the text.

A fun way of telling Bible stories to young children.

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Friday, May 24, 2013

On having more time than I think

Last week I watched Jennifer Byrne interview the author, P.D. James. The thing that surprised me was that she was 92 years old and her mind was so sharp.

Sometimes I think I started writing too late in life, that somehow time is running out for me as a writer. Then along comes P. D. James, 92 and still writing. I guess writing being a sedentary occupation has it advantages.

Currently I am writing some devotional thoughts from the book of Mark, when I finish I will have written a devotional thought on every chapter in the New Testament, all 260 of them. (See my progress here.) It occurred to me a while ago I should aim to write a thought on every chapter from the Old Testament too, all 929 of them, but I figured it would take too long. However I have already written about 50 from the Old Testament so if I wrote one devotional thought per week it would take me another 17 years. However watching P.D. James made me consider that even if I wrote one a fortnight I would still make it before I turned 92!

Maybe I have more time than I think.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Devotional Thought : Mark 7:5

So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?” Mark 7:5

This wasn’t a hygiene issue but rather an issue of obeying a tradition. The Pharisees had chosen to focus on the trivial at the expense of the important and in so doing, had created an inaccurate picture of what God is like – a God who nit picks and is hard to please.

The Pharisees had a great historic heritage. As Paul says, “Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah” (Romans 9:4-5). Yet they chose to focus on minute details of the law and neglected to be loving.

I wonder if we sometimes do the same? We create practices and routines which may have at one time been helpful but have now become traditions. Furthermore we have been doing them for so long we have forgotten why we started or why we thought they were helpful. It may be something as simple as reading the Bible for ten minutes every day which is a helpful spiritual discipline but when we make it compulsory for others it becomes a burden.

If we started expecting others to follow our man made rules simply because we find them helpful, we have a problem and cease to be Christ-like. When we are too focused on the trivial we will overlook the important.

From time to time we need to examine our traditions and considering whether they are still helpful or if they are creating a stumbling block for others to join us.

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Book Review : Motive Games

Motive Games is written for young adults who play video/computer games and, although I don’t fit either of these criteria, I still enjoyed the book. I was unfamiliar with all the jargon, but I understood enough about computers to connect with the story. There is a glossary of these terms at the back of the book.

The story concerns Phil whose father was a computer game designer. He died in an apparent accident when he fell down a flight of stairs. Phil, however, believes he was pushed and seeks to discover who is responsible. It is an engaging story with all the usual twists and hidden clues that you would expect in a murder mystery.

Along the way we gain insights into the world of computer gaming and the big business that this high-tech industry provides. It also provides many possible motives for Phil’s father’s death. Phil takes huge risks to find the evidence he needs to convict his father’s killer and in the process learns and grows as a person.

L.D. Taylor is a Christian author and this subtle influence ensures the book promotes the value of completing schooling as well as encouraging gamers not to spend all their free time playing computer games.

Overall a great read.

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Friday, May 17, 2013

On giving up caffeine

I started drinking tea as a kid and by the time I was 20 I was drinking 6-7 cups a day. At the time this didn’t seem unusual and I suffered no ill effects. Over the years I have cut back and replaced some cups with water and some with decaffeinated tea which apparently reduces the caffeine content by about 90%. I’ve never drank coffee which has a higher caffeine content per cup.

The reason I cut back my caffeine intake is not because it is causing me any problems – it is only a problem when I stop, and often I unintentionally stop when I go on holidays. When I am at home I drink tea regularly throughout the day but when I’m away I forget. I’m out and about and don’t consider the fact that if I don’t have a cup of tea I’m going to end up with a headache. I dislike the idea of planning my holidays around my tea drinking habits. Furthermore I really only like plain, ordinary tea. I’m not even a fan of English Breakfast and I’m finding these days some cafés don’t sell plain, ordinary tea. So I’m faced with the further dilemma of buying a favoured tea that I don’t really like just to prevent myself getting a headache when I’d really prefer to have a hot chocolate.

Prior to my last holiday I had cut back to one cup of ordinary tea and one cup of decaffeinated tea a day. Then whilst on holidays I decided to only drink three cups of decaf tea a day.

The first week wasn’t ok. I had a few headaches but it wasn’t too bad but the second week was worse. I was having headaches every day and sometimes they were quite severe. Things were better the third week and now it’s been a month I’m fine. However I’m still having some caffeine.

At this stage I’m going to stick to my three cups of decaf tea a day and see what happens next holiday.

Does anyone else have a story about their caffeine habits?

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Devotional Thought : Mark 6:51-52

They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened. Mark 6:51-52

The disciples did not always understand God’s ways, some days neither do we. Yet Jesus did not give up on them, nor does he give up on us. The explanation for their lack of understanding was that their hearts were hardened. How did their hearts become hard?

The disciples had seen Jesus doing miraculous things – healing the sick, feeding the five thousand, calming a storm and now Jesus walks on water. The disciples were familiar with the prophesises concerning the Messiah and, as Jesus told John, he was doing those things which were consistent with being the Messiah: “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor” (Matthew 11:5).

There was some expectation that the Messiah might feed his people like Moses had, but it was not prophesied that the Messiah would multiply food, calm a storm or walk on water. The disciples had not understood Jesus’ complete power over nature.

Yet Jesus expected them to have learnt from his teaching and his miracles. He expected them to apply the truth they had seen and heard to grow in their understanding of the Messiah. But often the disciples were stuck in their preconceived ideas and often we are too. If we have not seen Jesus do miracles in our lives, we may not expect him to do miracles for others. Nevertheless as the day of his second coming approaches it is foretold that we will see more of the miraculous.

The disciples didn't have heartened hearts forever. God was able to soften their hearts and he will soften ours too, if we let him.

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Monday, May 13, 2013

Book Review : The Magician’s Daughter

The Magician’s Daughter by Justyn Walker is a delightful children’s story about two misfit children, Georgie and Thomas, who fall through a puddle into another world. In this other world they are given a task to complete which requires courage and a sense of adventure. There is also a degree of mystery as you are never quite sure who is a friend and who is an enemy.

The story is told with a sense of fun which makes it a very enjoyable read. There is enough similarity with the real world to make it easy to relate to and enough difference to make it intriguing.

Through the completing of the task, Georgie and Thomas also learn a lot about themselves and their place in the world. In this there is a covert Christian message about our value as people.

Overall a fun read for primary school children.

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Friday, May 10, 2013

Devotional Thought : Mark 5:19, 43

“Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” …He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this. Mark 5:19 & 43

The previously demon possessed man is encouraged to tell everyone about his healing yet Jesus gives strict orders that no one speak of the healing of the girl.

Of course geographically these were two very different places. The demon possessed man lived in a Gentile area but the young girl lived in Jewish Galilee. The Gentiles had few preconceived ideas about the Messiah so Jesus was able to tell the man to share his miraculous healing with others. However in Galilee Jesus had to be careful that the people didn’t respond by prematurely claiming him as their king. Or alternatively being so disillusioned because he didn’t match their preconceived ideas that they prematurely kill him.

Different contexts required a different directive from Jesus.

It is important lesson for us. We cannot assume God wants us to react in the same way even when it appears to us that God is doing something similar to what we have seen before. God treats us as individuals and does not respond in a one size fits all fashion.

It is an easy trap for us to fall into. We think we know what people need to hear. We think we know what others should do. We freely give out advice without taking the time to listen and being sensitive to where people are at spiritually.

God knows people’s contexts far better than we do. He knows what they need to hear at a particular point of time. If we are going to minister effectively to others we must first listen to his Spirit.

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Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Blog Tour : Ellenvale Gold

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

6 - 10 May

is introducing

(Even Before Publishing November 2012)

Amanda Deed

About the Author:
Amanda Deed grew up in the South Eastern suburbs of Melbourne in a Christian home, and found faith at an early age. She has followed her passion to serve the Lord through music and literature since her teen years. Now married, with three children, Amanda enjoys the variety of being a mother, finance administrator, musician and historical romance writer. Her debut novel, The Game, won the 2010 CALEB Prize for fiction, and Ellenvale Gold was a finalist for the same prize in 2012.

For more information go to

About the Book:
It is the time of Australia’s harsh rogue-filled goldrush of the 1850’s when Miss Penelope Worthington suddenly finds herself orphaned, isolated and alone. With a large sheep station to run single-handedly, she has little option but to enlist the aid of a mysterious, but sinister stranger. But who is the more treacherous? Gus—the scruffy, trespassing, ex-convict who co-incidentally shows up looking for work just when she desperately needs a farmhand or Rupert—the handsome, wealthy neighbour who would willingly marry her at the drop of a hat and solve her apparent dilemma? Repeatedly, her faith is tested as she faces the unforgiving elements, deceit, lies and uncertainty. But where and how will it all end? But…is it the end? Will vengeance return or will Penny’s faith prevail?

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Monday, May 06, 2013

Book Review : Ellenvale Gold

Ellenvale Gold is currently being featured on the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance. Information about the author and more details about the book can be found here.

Ellenvale Gold is an enjoyable story, set during the gold rush days in Victoria. The story revolves around the developing romantic relationship between two unlikely people. Amanda Deed does a great job in creating a believable characters and a realistic context.

Penelope Worthington, the main character, faces a number of trials trying to run a property after her father’s death – the most dangerous of these being a flood and her dubious neighbours. She is offered help from an ex-convict which severely challenges her principles. Through these incidents Penelope finds faith but doubts also plague her as she faces difficult choices.

One of the reasons I enjoyed this book is because Amanda has handled the Christian aspects of this story particularly well. Through the characters we are given insights into some of the less obvious issues confronting some people when they convert to Christianity. Prejudices and preconceived ideas can cause some to stumble in their faith and it was interesting to see this fleshed out in the story.

A good read.

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

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Friday, May 03, 2013

Devotional Thought : Mark 4:18-19

Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Mark 4:18-19

We are told three things that make the word of God unfruitful in a person’s life: the worries of this life, deceitfulness of wealth, and desires for other things. These three things will choke a person’s spiritual life and make it unfruitful.

We may meet Christians who have experienced spiritual rebirth but seem no different to our non Christian friends. They worry instead of trusting God; they chase after wealth forgetting its temporal nature; and they are never satisfied with their circumstances. Although they have committed themselves to God they have become distracted by worldly concerns.

God has provided many ways for us not to be distracted. Meeting together with like minded believers at church or in small groups, studying God’s word and praying, all help us to focus on God. Singing worshipful songs reminds of God’s attributes, taking communion reminds us of God’s love and grace and listening to spiritual talks encourage us to grow spiritually.

However completing spiritual disciplines is not enough. The biggest challenge is our thoughts and attitudes. Unless we are prepared to change our focus from what we are lacking and direct our attention to the many blessings we already have, even abundant spiritually nourishment will not make any significant difference.

We see this so clearly with the Israelites in the wilderness who would not give up their grumbling, complaining ways. When they experienced God’s supernatural provision it had no effect on their faith.

If we desire to be spiritually fruitful our focus must continually be on God’s unmerited love and goodness towards us, which is amazing grace.

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Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Book Review : A Design of Gold

Paula Vince has tackled a difficult subject in A Design of Gold. The death of a close friend is difficult enough but when the main character feels her actions may have contributed to her friend’s death, it is seriously complicated. Paula handles her subject matter well and the story feels realistic. Characters behaved in a way that is consistent with those suffering grief and loss.

From this tragic beginning the story develops into a slightly unconventional love story with many bumps and twists along the way. There are a number of characters in this story but I managed to keep track on them all. This is something I sometimes have trouble with because I tend to skim over descriptive passages but Paula’s characters have depth and uniqueness.

I enjoyed the way subtle life lessons were weaved into the plot. God’s plans for a person’s life often take a different path to the one we expect and this idea was well fleshed out.

Overall a good read.

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