Thursday, October 31, 2013

Book Review : The Yellow Zone

The Yellow Zone is an eerie book. Janelle Dyer has created a scenario of what the end of the world may be like, using modern technology and the terrorist threat. The story and the characters are all very believable and thus quite scary.

The story centres on a several teenagers and their families, who are caught up in the dramas and many come to a place of belief in God through the situation. The Christian element is significant but not overwhelming. In this regard at the start of the story, the reader is rather wisely left to draw their own conclusions about the disappearance of children and many people, who were obviously strong Christians.

There was a little too much ‘telling’ and not enough ‘showing’ which created distance between the reader and really connecting with the story but, for me, this added to the feeling of eeriness but perhaps there are better ways to do this.

The book encourages the reader to think about the risks involved in standing up for what you believe in. It would be suitable for teenagers who are not daunted by the terrorist threat. The story lends itself to a sequel and even a prequel.

Overall an interesting story.

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Children's Ministry - part 2

Continuing the series of my discoveries in children's ministry.

There are many who have produced developmental theories as to how faith grows in children. John Westerhoff used a diagram of concentric circles to illustrate faith development most simply:

• "The centre circle is experiencing. This stage is linked to childhood, and the key is for children to experience the faith community as a place where they feel loved and accepted.

• The second circle is joining. This is a stage in early adolescence and is a time when the young person looks to belong to a faith community and to join 'God’s family.'

• The third circle is searching. This stage corresponds to adolescence and the natural shift in intellectual capacity. To use Piaget’s terminology, one moves from concrete to formal operations. Adolescents are questioning their experience of faith, the church, and what they have been taught, as well as the experiences of others.

• The fourth circle is owning. This is a stage during adulthood when the person makes a decision to believe and personalize what they have been taught as a child. This person is now believing because they want to" (Westerhoff in Bartlett, Belonging and Believing, 2000).

The diagram simplifies the complex process of coming to faith yet clearly illustrates the need to develop a child’s faith. There seems to be a fear of not allowing children to move into searching phase but rather keep them safe and entertained in the false belief that this will keep them in the church. Some parents are more concerned about their children being, 'Safe in the faith, not strong in the faith.' However children who are only being entertained will tire of church programs when they are old enough to discover the world has more to offer in terms of entertainment.

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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Devotional Thought : Exodus 8:19

The magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” Exodus 8:19

At this point in the plague narratives we see that some Egyptians were starting to realize that something genuinely spiritual was happening, and it affects their behaviour. In the next chapter when warned of the plague of hail we read that, "Those officials of Pharaoh who feared the word of the Lord hurried to bring their slaves and their livestock inside. But those who ignored the word of the Lord left their slaves and livestock in the field" (Exodus 9:20-21). Later some had been so impacted by the plagues that they left Egypt with the Israelites (Exodus 12:38).

In verse quoted above, the magicians also realized that something of spiritual significance was happening. They knew the plague of gnats was not magic but had to be God. Thus revealing that they knew all along that what they were doing was not by the power of any god but was magic. God puts the magicians in a situation where they have to say, "Only God could have done that." Even though Pharaoh refused to see it.

In our day, we also find God putting people in situations that only he could have orchestrated. God has his people reconnecting with acquaintances, perhaps like the Egyptians who knew Moses from his time in the palace. But now, they are doing things – perhaps leading or preaching, that they would never have done before, all because of the difference God has made in their lives. Some stop to consider what has caused the change but others refused to believe the evidence in front of their eyes.

What about you? Will you acknowledge the difference God can make in a person's life? And the difference he can make in yours?

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Blog Tour : Joy

This month's blog tour is for the children’s book: Joy by Kirrily Lowe. This book is part of a blog tour organized by Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance

My book review can be found here.


21-25 October


is introducing


(Wombat Books August 2010)

by

Kirrily Lowe



About the Book:

"I've lost my joy where could it be?"

Come with our little girl on a search to find her "Joy". Is it under the apple tree, is it out to sea, or is it in something that we cannot see? A message for little ones and big ones – where do we go to find joy when we have lost it.


About the Author:

Kirrily Lowe is the author of The Invisible Tree series of children's books - a delightful and fun series seeking to capture great and timeless values for little ones.

Kirrily began her career as a lawyer working with children in Sydney’s Western Suburbs.

She is now the pastor together with her husband Tim of C3 City Campus - a dynamic and creative congregation in Darlinghurst, Sydney.

Kirrily began writing in 2010 whilst at home with her young children.

Kirrily lives in the northern suburbs of Sydney with Tim and her 3 young and lively boys.

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Book Review : Joy

Joy 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.

Joy is the second in The Invisible Tree series by Kirrily Lowe. The series is based on the fruit of the Spirit.

From the introduction: “There is an invisible tree that lives inside of me. It wants to grow big and tall even though I am very small.”

This book asks the question, where is my joy? It becomes clear that joy isn’t like other things that we can’t find. The message subtly points towards God without being intense. I also like the gentle rhyming.

Henry Smith has done a great job of designing pictures and fonts to fit the message and style of the book.

Thanks to Wombat Books for providing a free book for review.

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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Devotional Thought : Exodus 1:1

These are the names of the sons of Israel who went to Egypt with Jacob, each with his family. Exodus 1:1

Constable in the introduction to his commentary on Exodus writes, “Scripture teaches both the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. No one has been able to explain this mystery to the satisfaction of all God’s people.”

God’s Sovereignty tells us that God is the ultimate ruler of the universe yet God also gives humans freedom. God does not micromanage. God is so powerful he can bring about his purposes and allow people choice at the same time. To some extent we do this with our children. In the home the parents are the ultimate authority yet often they will give their children a choice, within reason, about their friends, their level of involvement in sports or hobbies, how they spend their free time and other areas. A child’s poor choices may damage his relationship with his parents but it won’t affect the parent’s authority.

One of the ways God expresses his sovereignty is through creating a pattern. God chose Israel as his own so that through them he could show the other nations what it is like to live under the blessing and rule of the one true God rather than pagan gods. Even though Israel often failed to be a good role model in this, it did not stop God from fulfilling his purposes. His Sovereignty was not thwarted. And even in Israel’s failure there were some who still saw the value of committing to following God’s ways, like Ruth (Ruth 1:16).

Through the book of Exodus we see God displaying his Sovereignty over the pagan gods of Egypt. We also see Moses and the people’s choice. Will they trust God’s ways? And likewise, will we?

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Children's Ministry - part 1

I have been studying children's ministry as part of my course and I thought I would share some of my discoveries:

From a Biblical perspective, parents are seen as the primary source of spiritual teaching. However the mode of teaching them was based on the premise that children would be spending most of their time with their parents.

“Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 11:19-20 NIV).

Consequently for at least the first 1700 years of the Christian Church there was no specific ministry to children – no children’s pastors, family ministers or youth workers. There are some parents who have returned to this model. They want to be fully responsible for the spiritual teaching of their children and do not encourage their children to attend Kids Church or youth group. Some have gone to the extent of only attending church spasmodically preferring instead to have “home church” with their family. However this exaggerates the Biblical model. Though parents were the primary source of spiritual instruction, children grew up with their extended families of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins etc. The children were receiving role modelling from a variety of people. By returning to this model in the context of nuclear families depraves children of the diversity that a church family provides.

Around the time of the Industrial Revolution formal Sunday Schools began. Rather than children working alongside their parents on farms or in cottage industries, they were working six days a week in factories and not receiving any instruction - spiritual or otherwise, apart from the wealthy. Most children were not learning to read and write. The Sunday School movement was started to meet the need for literacy and for spiritual instruction.

Initially the movement attracted large numbers of children but over time with social conditions improving for children and, with the introduction of formal education, Sunday School attendances steadily decreased. Many attempts have been made to address this decline and the introduction of more entertaining programs is one of these attempts. However entertainment alone is not stopping this trend and many churches are finding children’s attendance at Sunday School sporadic.

Nevertheless some churches in recent times have found that a children’s program can still be popular and an effective means of outreach to children but the program needs to be more than entertainment.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Caleb Conference

I was greatly encouraged last weekend as a result of attending the Caleb Conference. It was so good to be around people who have such a passion for producing Australian books. There were heaps of workshops, good conversations and renewed relationships. I was also impressed by the diversity of gifts, talents and ideas that I noticed in the delegates and the different paths that God has people on.

On the downside Australian Christian publishing is small and most Australian Christian writers still only make 'pocket money.' Still their commitment and sacrifice to writing and publication is inspiring.

On a personal note, I have a clearer vision and renew vigour to pursue publication of my book.

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Devotional Thought : Hosea 9:1

Do not rejoice, Israel; do not be jubilant like the other nations. For you have been unfaithful to your God; you love the wages of a prostitute at every threshing floor. Hosea 9:1

Although Hosea and Gomer’s relationship is not mentioned again after chapter 3 in the book of Hosea, the theme of unfaithfulness continues. Israel is compared to a prostitute's pimp. It is sexual imagery. As people heard Hosea’s words they would remember his sacrificial behaviour towards Gomer, and thus God’s heart towards them.

Words alone are not always effective. The human mind is able to rationalize or ignore mere words but a person's behaviour gives substance. No doubt Hosea found it difficult to redeem his wife under such circumstances but his motive was obedience to God and the consequence was to give his preaching more authority. His actions continued to speak long after his words stopped.

Centuries later Paul would write that a wife's behaviour can have more impact her words. "…if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives" (1 Peter 3:1).

James would write that words without actions are dead (James 2:14-26). Neither was God content just to give his people words. He also gave then actions, things that people could point to and say only God could have done that. Only God could have enable Hosea to take back his wife. Only God’s love could produce such action. Only God loves like that.

Nevertheless some in Hosea’s day and some in ours will chose to ignore both words and actions. God is constantly reaching out to us through his word, through other believers, through his Spirit but will we open our spiritual eyes and ears to see it, hear it and respond?

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Blog Tour : The Inheritance

This month's fiction blog tour is for: The Inheritance by Jo-Anne Berthelsen. This book is part of a blog tour organized by Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance

My book review can be found here.


7 -11 October


is introducing


(Even Before Publishing September 2013)

by

Jo-anne Berthelsen


About the Book:
Michael Trevelyan is determined to claim his inheritance at all costs. Bitterness consumes him and he refuses to forgive those who have betrayed him. Yet, when he meets Alexandra Hope, things begin to change. She challenges his views but also listens while he shares his pain. Can Michael move on from the past and learn to forgive? Can Alexandra hold onto her faith in God as she deals with their deepening relationship? Can they both learn to trust each other—and God?

The Inheritance is a stirring story of family secrets, forgiveness and faith—of leaving behind a dark, painful legacy and walking into the light of God’s eternal inheritance.

About the Author:
Jo-Anne Berthelsen lives in Sydney but grew up in Brisbane. She holds degrees in Arts and Theology and has worked as a high school teacher, editor and secretary, as well as in local church ministry. Jo-Anne loves communicating through both the written and spoken word. She is the author of five published novels – Heléna, All the Days of My Life, Laura, Jenna and Heléna’s Legacy. Her first non-fiction work Soul Friend: The story of a shared spiritual journey was released in October 2012. Jo-Anne loves music, reading, mentoring younger women, and sharing with community groups about writing. She is married to a retired minister and has three grown-up children and three grandchildren.

For more information, please visit www.jo-anneberthelsen.com or www.soulfriend.com.au.

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Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Book Review : The Inheritance

The Inheritanceis 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.

The inheritance by Jo-anne Berthelsen is a moving story about unfaithfulness, tragedy, bitterness and how faith in God can bring love, forgiveness and hope.

Michael Trevelyan is bound by his unhappy childhood and refuses to let go his resentment despite the attempts of his deathly ill mother. The conditions of her will only increases his resentment as he struggles to hold onto the family estate and maintain a busy medical practice. Meanwhile he is drawn to the local doctor’s daughter, Alexandra, but their different world views create impossible grounds for a long term relationship.

This is a strongly Christian story, but it needs to be to deal with the consequence of shocking past failures. Only in God is there hope for restoration and healing. The thing I liked most about this book is the raw emotion which draws you into the story. I could feel their pain. I liked the reality of people putting on a good façade but seeing their emotions play out in their relationships. I also liked the slow leak of information and the surprising contrasts that developed through the story.

Overall a great story.

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

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Saturday, October 05, 2013

A week away

Although I've recently started a new job I've been able arrange a week off to visit my elderly parents and attend a Writer's Conference in Brisbane next weekend. I've scheduled a few posts while I'm away.

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Thursday, October 03, 2013

Devotional Thought : Hosea 3:2

So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. Hosea 3:2

Hosea’s life is an object lesson on how far God will go to prove his love for his people. God tells Hosea to take the initiative and go to his adulterous wife, even while she is being loved by another man. He also commands Hosea to “love her as the Lord loves the Israelites” (v.1). This must have been humiliating for Hosea. Gomer’s unfaithfulness would have been obvious to all and she is not the one seeking forgiveness. Yet Hosea purchases and redeems her.

Thirty shekels was the normal price of a slave. Whether Gomer had ended up as a slave and Hosea only had fifteen shekels and some barley for the exchange is unclear. However it is clear that Hosea had already married Gomer and now he has to pay again. Gomer is twice Hosea’s. Likewise we are twice God’s. Once because we are made in his image and twice because he paid to redeem us.

God takes the initiative with us even when we are more interested in the things that will destroy our relationship with God, than build it. Yet God through Jesus shows his love to by bearing the humiliation of the cross and willingly sacrificing all he has to purchase our redemption.

The radical love Hosea shows towards Gomer is meant to shock us in to realizing how much God loves us. Certainly we would be shocked if we saw the story of Hosea and Gomer being lived out in our midst. The Israelites saw it but they did not consider the object lesson God was giving them.

Today let us consider and be overwhelmed by a God who loves like this.

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Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Book Review : Piece by Piece

Piece by piece : unlocking the puzzle for an effective ministry to today’s children is an excellent resource for people working in children’s ministry. By using the illustration of a jigsaw puzzle Tammy Tolman is able to explain the different aspect of children’s ministry in a comprehensive way. The corner piece is, of course, Jesus and our relationship with him. The edges represent leadership, community, team building and discipleship. While the connecting pieces represent the process of engaging, experiencing, educating and building relationships with the children.

Tammy’s passion for children’s ministry comes through loud and strong. She champions the cause of children being allowed to participate in ministry and experience God in the process.

Tammy’s experience is in large churches where her focus has been entirely on children’s ministry. At times I found this approach hard to relate to as I come from a small church where people have many roles and responsibilities. Children’s ministry is often one role among many. However I appreciate Tammy’ knowledge and experience which she happily shares in this book.

Great resource for children’s ministry.

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