Saturday, August 31, 2013

Book Review : On Thin Ice

On Thin Ice, by Linda Hall, tells the story of Megan Brooks and Alec Black who were once engaged, but never married. They meet again after twenty years as they work together to investigate the suspicious deaths of several friends. Through this process they face their own history of a failed relationship but are now given a second chance with the benefit of more insight and maturity.

This is a short, entertaining read with limited depth. It touches on a few issues such as dysfunctional families, integrity and forgiveness from a Christian perspective but doesn’t delve too far into them. Yet as a quick read it is an enjoyable Christian mystery. Not every Christian story has to expound the intricacies of life.

An interesting well told story.

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Devotional Thought : Job 19:25-26

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God. Job 19:25-26

Job was presenting his complaint to God in the form of a legal trial. In those days a "redeemer" was normally a close relative who would provide legal assistance at a trial for someone who could not defend themselves. Job needed a redeemer and in this break through moment Job realized that God, himself, had someone in mind who would redeem his situation. Job’s faith hits a high point. There is an end in sight, even if it is beyond death.

Job was being prophetic. Today we know Jesus Christ is our Mediator and our Redeemer (1 Timothy 2:5). One who acts as our intercessor and pleads our case (Romans 8:34). Job didn’t know this, yet he knew God would provide. Much like God provided a ram for Abraham to sacrifice on Mount Moriah (Genesis 22:8, 13-14).

Furthermore, Job believed he would see God beyond death. For a moment he glimpsed the big picture and realized that this life was not all there was. Suffering only makes sense when we look at the big picture of God’s purposes and realize our lives are temporal compared to eternity.

Having made this break through, it would be nice to think that Job rested in this knowledge but Job continues to complain that God was being unfair to him (Job 27:1-6). His moments of faith are short lived and the reality of his situation again takes prominence in his mind. Nevertheless Job does not abandon his hope in God (Job 27:7-10).

Always remember, nothing is so awful that it would warrant abandoning hope in God.

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Book Review : All-in Night

Last month I posted a book review of Lynne Burgess' second book, All-in 2 night which can be read here. This review is for her first book in the series, All-in night.

Lynne Burgess is a busy mum of a large family who was looking for a way of talking to her children about issues that didn’t naturally come up in the day to day routines of a busy family life; issues such as values, ethics, compassion, etc. Lynne and her husband created a ritual one night a week where the family shared a special dessert and discussed a particular topic. The topics were introduced in a variety of fun ways and her book, All-in night, contains the format of many of these discussions starters.

I like the practicality that comes through in Lynne’s writing. She is honest about how these discussions times are created and maintained. They take time off for school holidays and vary the length of the discussions; sometimes only taking ten minutes other times taking much longer. She also explains how they accommodate the wide age range of their children.

A useful resource and idea generator for families and those who work with primary school children.

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Devotional Thought : Job 13:15

Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him. Job 13:15

Job believed he was putting his life in jeopardy by what he was saying (v.14). Job thought that God would kill him because he was challenging him to let him argue his case (v.3). Nevertheless Job continues with his challenge. Getting answers to his suffering was more important to Job than life itself.

So often when we suffer we think God is angry with us. Perhaps this comes from our experience as children. If we did something which resulted in our parents being angry then the consequences were often unpleasant for us. As adults we assume if we are experiencing unpleasant circumstances it must be because God is angry with us. Yet this is a flawed way of looking at life.

Anger is a choice parents and others make in response to someone behaving in a way that inconveniences them or blocks their goals in some way. It is actually impossible to make someone angry without their free choice. They could choose to respond differently. Consequently we don’t make God angry by our actions or non-actions. We might disappoint God but God is well aware of our short comings so he is not surprised or angry with our behaviour.

God was not angry with Job. In fact if we read the first two chapters of Job we find God boasting about Job’ righteousness to Satan. There was no need for Job to protest his innocence, God already knew it. Ultimately God was seeking to draw Job into a deeper relationship with himself and to do this God temporarily allow Job’s blessings to be removed. Job learnt to rely on God alone.

Through it all Job decided to hope in God, even if it killed him.

Let us do likewise.

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Blog Tour : Captured by Calvary

This month's non-fiction blog tour is for: Captured by Calvary by Ray Hawkins. This book is part of a blog tour organized by Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance

My book review can be found here.

19 -23 August

is introducing

(Even Before Publishing February 2012)


Ray Hawkins

About the Author:
Ray Hawkins, retired after over 40 years as a Churches of Christ minister, enjoys sharing themes from the Scriptures through Devotional writing. Married to Mary, multi-published inspirational romance author, they have three children and five grandchildren. Ray shares his insights in his first two books on Marriage and Children with more ideas to come about ministry and much more. Living in Beauty Point Tasmania Ray heads up a new Christian Fellowship as well as doing relief preaching, community work and writing.

About the Book:
31 Biblical Devotions to meditate on the cross - God's glory

Be captured by the wisdom, power, grace and wonder of Calvary.These devotional meditations take you to the heart of the Gospel. They will fill you with awe of God. They will cause you to bow before the Lord in adoration.

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Book Review : Captured by Calvary

Captured by Calvary is being featured on the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance this week. Information about the author and more details about the book can be found here.

Captured by Calvary is a collection of 31 devotions about the Cross of Christ. Ray Hawkins has written these thoughts to help people meditate on the implications of Christ’s death.

These devotions are an in-depth look at the different aspects of the work Christ accomplished on the cross. It looks at the symbolism of the cross; the connection with the Passover; the fulfilment of Old Testament thinking as well as the prophesies; God’s foreknowledge of the Cross; the significance of various events and sayings that happened at the time of Christ’s death; and how the significance of the cross applies to us today.

These thoughts would be a useful launching place for those who regularly give communion talks or as a Bible study or as a personal daily devotional.

Although this is a short book, it is not a quick read. As a book reviewer I found it difficult to read more than one or two devotions a day as they are quite theologically profound and I needed time to digest them. Each devotional is well thought through and often weighty.

Overall a valuable addition to one’s theological library.

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

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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Towards Belief - DVD series

I recently watched the DVD series Towards Belief and was very impressed with the high level of research and the depth and variety of the information provided. The presenters are highly qualified and brought a perspective that had great validity. Furthermore the presenters were not merely presenting intellectual arguments but rather the viewpoint that had personal impacted them. Karl Faase also does a great job as host.

The series was created to address 10 areas where people struggle with issues of faith. These are:
Karl Faase
1. Suffering
2. The Bible
3. Supernatural
4. Religious Violence
5. Exclusive Faith
6. Church Abuse
7. Science & God
8. Homosexuality
9. The Church
10. Towards Belief

As a believer I found my faith confirmed as I watched each episode. Sometimes their arguments were more academic than I could appreciate but I understood that their answers had been well thought through. They spoke with sincerity and concern for their listeners.

A great series which would work well in a small group setting.

For more information: Towards Belief

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Book Review : The Risky Way Home

The Risky Way Home is another captivating story by Paula Vince. It begins with Casey responding to a job advert and reconnecting with an old school friend. In taking up the position she finds herself unexpectedly challenged not only in the job but also in her personal life. The romantic elements in the story provide a good backdrop to the deeper issues raised in the story, issues of identity, purpose and fulfilment. These issues are dealt with in vastly different ways by the different characters – Casey in her new role, Piers as a single dad, Suzanne as a business manager, Eric as a talented photographer. It is interesting to contrast the ideals that each of these people value as they live out what they believe equates to success.

As the story progresses, Paula has again been unafraid to delve into topical issues with skill and realism. In this instance looking at domestic violence and how women can unwittingly become trapped in this cycle of abuse. The ability of the perpetrator to go undetected for so long is chilling.

I liked the way the book finished on a note of hope for all the characters even for the ones whose issues weren’t wholly resolved. I also enjoyed the way a Christian perspective was encouraged without being overbearing.

A great read.

Thanks to Paula Vince for providing a free book for review.

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Devotional Thought : Job 11:18-19

You will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety. You will lie down, with no one to make you afraid, and many will court your favor. Job 11:18-19

Zophar tells Job that if “you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent” (v.14) that all would be well. That Job would be secure and unafraid. That his life would be untouched by suffering if he simply owned up to the sin in his life.

While it is God’s desire for us to have a sense of security and safety, it is not in the context Zophar intents. Zophar thinks a secure life is achieved through a sinless life. However a secure life comes from being in relationship with God.

Our relationship with God gives us a sense of security that is not dependant on our circumstances. We trust God because he is an all good God who loves us and has our best interests at heart. Even when our conditions are not favourable we can still trust God because ultimately he has everything under control. Nothing happens without his knowledge or permission. If he allows something to happen in my life that I don’t like I can still trust him to bring about his good purposes through the situation.

When we have this security planted in our hearts, we have hope. No situation is beyond God’s reach or concern. Furthermore there is no reason to be afraid of the unexpected. While something may be unexpected to me, it is never unexpected to God.

Trusting God for our security is not dependant on our ability to live a sinless life but rather on God’s ability to sustain us through all our circumstances.

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Saturday, August 10, 2013

God meets a different standard of proof

Recently I was reading an article (here) about the upcoming debate between atheist Lawrence Krauss and the Christian apologist William Lane Craig. Some wonder about the point of such exchanges and the article makes this interesting point:

The debate would be pointless if our expectation is that God has a responsibility to reveal him/herself in some way that is unambiguous and undeniable by the standards of scientific and philosophical reasoning.

Why should the existence and nature of God be immediately obvious on human scientific terms? What if God deliberately left not proofs, but only clues? What if God deliberately revealed only enough evidence of his existence for the interested observer to pursue, but not enough to pander to the demands of a sceptic?

And what if God did this so that theological truth could not be discovered on human, objective, spectator terms, but on divine, subjective and personal terms? In this way of thinking a personal, relational God would have no interest in human spectators merely sitting in the grandstands, so to speak, debating what God is like. God would only be interested in humans entering the 'playing field' of personal encounter. In the same way that any personal encounter I might have with the Queen would properly be entirely on her terms, the personal encounter with God would sensibly be on His/Her terms – terms that are unlikely to be mainly scientific or philosophical.

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Thursday, August 08, 2013

Blog Tour : Captured by Moonlight

This month's fiction blog tour is for: Captured by Moonlight by Christine Lindsay. This book is part of a blog tour organized by Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance

5 – 9 August

is introducing

(WhiteFire Publishing May 15, 2013)

About the Author:
Christine Lindsay writes historical inspirational novels with strong love stories, and she takes pride in her Irish roots. Her great grandfather and grandfather worked as riveters in the Belfast shipyard, one of those ships her ancestors helped build was the Titanic. On her mother’s side it was stories of ancestors who served in the British Cavalry in India that seeded Christine’s long-time fascination with the British Raj and became the stimulus for her Twilight of the British Raj series.

The Pacific coast of Canada, about 200 miles north of Seattle, is Christine’s home where she lives with her husband, David, and they enjoy the visits from their adult children and grandchildren. Like a lot of authors, Christine’s chief editor is her cat.

About the Book:
Prisoners to their own broken dreams…

After a daring rescue goes awry, the parched north of India grows too hot for nurse Laine Harkness and her friend Eshana. The women flee to the tropical south…and run headlong into their respective pasts.

Laine takes a new nursing position at a plantation in the jungle, only to discover that her former fiancĂ© is the owner…and that Adam has no more to say to her now than he did when he crushed her years ago. Why, then, is she still drawn to him, and to the tiger cub he is raising?

Eshana, captured by her traditional uncle and forced once more into the harsh Hindu customs of mourning, doubts whether freedom will ever again be in her future, much less the forbidden love that had begun to whisper to her. Is faith enough to live on? Or is her Savior calling her home?

Amid cyclones and epidemics, clashing faiths and consequences of the war, will the love of the True Master give hope to these searching hearts?

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Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Devotional Thought : Job 9:22

It is all the same; that is why I say, ‘He destroys both the blameless and the wicked.’ Job 9:22

Job’s suffering has caused him to think that living a righteous life makes no difference since both the blameless and the wicked suffer. Prior to Job’s trials he would not have thought this way. He believed along with the rest of his friends that if you do the right thing God will bless you and if you do evil you will suffer. Yet Job finds himself in the midst of deep suffering with the knowledge that he has not wilfully sinned against God.

Job’s biggest challenge is not his physical or emotional pain, we do not find Job pleading for healing, but we do find him crying out for answers. His distress comes, not from his pain, but from not understanding the reason for his pain.

Suffering and difficulty will always make us rethink our theology and perhaps this is one of the reasons God allows hardship into our lives. God does not want us living according to a formula where we do right just because we will be blessed. God does want us to live righteous lives but not at the expense of relationship.

God wants an honest relationship where there is no pretence, no showy displays, no hypocrisy. God is more concerned about our motives than we are. If our motives are purely self seeking and we are only interested in our own wellbeing, we might find God disturbing our comfortable life.

God is more interested in us being real than being ‘right’ so that our righteous lives are an expression of a right relationship and not an attempt to gain God’s blessings.

Remember, God is looking for a relationship with us not a performance from us.

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Saturday, August 03, 2013

On matching our words with our actions

Refugees are a major concern in Australia at the moment and I recently read an interesting perspective on this issue on the Bible Society web site with the following title: So you think it’s a good idea to welcome refugees? Excuse me while I burst your bubble. By way of explanation there is an amusing little footnote to the article: “The title of this blog is deliberately provocative. It’s called irony.” The gist of the article is that we actually ought to show compassion to refugees.

It is a thought provoking article about whether our words match our actions. It can be read here.

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Thursday, August 01, 2013

Devotional Thought : Job 6:21

Now you too have proved to be of no help; you see something dreadful and are afraid. Job 6:21

The dreadful thing that Job’s friend saw was his suffering; and when they saw the extent of it, they were afraid. If someone as righteous as Job could suffer so severely, then disaster could happen to anyone.

Perhaps this was why Job’s friends were so determine to convince Job he had wilfully sinned. There is safety and security in believing that suffering is connected to what we do. If anyone can suffer at any time and we have no control over our circumstances, life is scary. However if Job’s friends could discover Job’s sin and there was a reason for his calamities then all would be well. They could continue to rely on their erroneous belief that living a righteous life gave you God’s protection. However if a righteous life wasn’t a protection against disaster, then how could they feel safe in the world?

Like Job’s friends there are times when we avoid considering the randomness of suffering because it makes us afraid. Seeing someone in deep pain is disturbing and may leave us feeling inadequate. It may also cause us to feel like the world is out of control and we are afraid that suffering will come into our own lives. However if we let our fears dominate us, we will feel overwhelmed and not much help to ourselves or to those in need.

The real comfort in suffering is a strong conviction in the character of God. If we believe that God is good, loving and powerful and we know that he will gives us the strength to face whatever happens to us in life, then, there is no need to fear suffering, either our own or others.

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