Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Journal of my trip to Israel – Day 9 & 10

Day 9

Brief history of the Temple Mount (visited yesterday and today): Abraham came here (Mount Moriah) to sacrifice his son Isaac. Solomon built the Temple on this land which his father King David purchased from Aravnah, the Jebusite. That Temple, destroyed by the Babylonian conqueror Nebuchadnezzar in 568 BC, was rebuilt 70 years later and restored to its original glory by Herod, 2000 years ago. Such was it splendour, it was said that, "he who has not seen the Temple of Herod has not seen a building of true beauty." In 70 AD this Temple was destroyed by the Romans, burned to the ground and its stones scattered.

The Western Wall (Wailing Wall) was the retaining wall for the temple and the only part of the Temple to survive the Roman destruction. It was built to support the western side of the Temple Mount. It is the most sacred structure of the Jewish people. Its ancient stones stand testimony to a glorious Jewish past, a proud heritage and an extraordinary national rebirth. It is a focus of Jewish longing and prayer for redemption and renewal.

While praying at the wall I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for all God has done for me. Then later when I went back to the southern wall area I felt incredibly blessed to be in the same place that God chose for his Son to come.

We walked through the Western Wall tunnel which goes from the Wailing Wall and heads north. It was excavated after 1967 when Israel regained access to the area. We saw stones from Herod's time, as well as cisterns and water channels which helps in knowing what the temple area looked like in Jesus' time and later.

From there we went to the Tower of David but it's not King David's as it was built in Herod's time to protect the city. It is now a museum and has lots of models of the ancient city and records 4000 years of Jerusalem's history.

Day 10
Today we travelled to Caesarea on the Mediterranean Sea. It was good to out of the city and feel the sea breeze. The number of tourists and tourist buses in Jerusalem is unbelievable.

In 30 BC Herod was awarded the small village of Straton's Tower. He built a large port city at the site and called it Caesarea. It was a planned city, with crisscrossing roads, a temple, theatre, amphitheatre, markets and residential quarters. By the year 6 BC it had become the headquarters of the Roman government in Palestine. Caesarea served as a base for the Roman legions who dealt with the quelling of the Great Jewish Revolt. After the destruction of Jerusalem it became the most important city in the country. There are ruins from later periods as well as earlier times.

Cornelius lived at Caesarea. The Gospel slowly travelled to the Gentiles via the God fearers (Cornelius) to genuine Gentiles. The disciples struggled to include Gentiles and it wasn't until persecution came that they eventually left Jerusalem.

Next we went to Mount Carmel - amazing views. This is the fertile part of the country so it is good to be away from the desert though there is still plenty of rocks.

Mt. Carmel -Today instead of offering children to pagan gods we abort them. Both these things are done for economic reasons. Previously it was in the misguided belief that the pagan god would bring about fertility which would lead to economic gain. These days it is women don't want to interrupt their careers to have babies and deprive them of income.

Travelling on to Megiddo which is an extensive archaeological site where they found 22 levels of civilisations, covering a number of time spans. Two stable complexes were found which attests to Megiddo's status as a major chariot city. It is felt these date to one of the Israelite kings. Some feel there are remains from Solomon's building efforts (and it is interesting to note that Solomon had a lot of horses 1 Kings 9:15, 1 Kings 4:25-29). Megiddo is also known as Armageddon. It is a strategic place geographically as it is the land bridge between Europe, Africa and the east, avoiding the desert and the sea and also fertile enough to feed large armies.

Overnight in Nazareth.

Link to Day 11 & 12 .

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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Devotional Thought : Ezra 7:27-28

Praise be to the Lord, the God of our ancestors, who has put it into the king’s heart to bring honor to the house of the Lord in Jerusalem in this way and who has extended his good favor to me before the king and his advisers and all the king’s powerful officials. Because the hand of the Lord my God was on me, I took courage and gathered leaders from Israel to go up with me. Ezra 7:27-28

God put it in the heart of a pagan king to allow Ezra to go to Jerusalem, plus he gave him the necessary resources so that regular temple sacrifices could continue. Possibly the king had mixed motives and was trying to appease all gods so that things would go well in his kingdom (v.23). Nevertheless it was an answer to Ezra's dreams.

When Ezra realized that God orchestrated for him to receive favour from the king, he took courage. It wasn't when he felt ready, equipped or adequate for the task but when he saw the favour of God on his life. Ezra knew he could not rely on his own sufficient to make the journey. However by realizing God's enabling grace was on him (the hand of the Lord), he knew it was the right time to make the long and dangerous journey.

As Christians we are often slow to recognize God's favour. Often we think it is circumstantial, good luck or our own good planning when things go well rather than acknowledging God's favour. Thus we don't take the opportunities to take hold of God's enabling and step out of our comfort zones to make a difference in God's kingdom.

Furthermore it is often our desire for God's enabling which creates the opportunity for us to experience his favour.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas

With my very best wishes for a happy Christmas to all who pass by here. I bought this Christmas ornament in Bethlehem on my recent trip.

I’ll be away for a few days catching up with family.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Journal of my trip to Israel – Day 7 & 8

Day 7

Today we went to the temple mount. Given that it was closed a couple of weeks ago it was great to be there despite the fact that it was raining. The Temple Mount is a large area. It is dominated by the Dome of the Rock but there is much space around it and much speculation as to where the Temple was actually located.

We visited the Wohl Archaeology Museum in the Herodian Quarter of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. We walked through the remains of first century homes belonging to Jerusalem's wealthy leaders and priests during the last days of the Second Temple period. The area contains six luxurious houses which contained artefacts from the daily lives of the owners – decorated walls, mosaics, ritual purification pools (Mikvah's), eating utensils, household objects, coins, souvenirs, furniture and even ancient cosmetics. The priests were obviously making good money from exploiting those coming to the temple. We also went to the Burnt House Museum – Katros House where remains from 70 AD were found including evidence of the fire that ravaged the house. The House of Katros was the name of one of the four dynasties of High Priests who exploited the people and misused their position. They were known for making harsh legal rulings and for granting members of their own family positions in the Temple.

It would appear that ideological dilemmas (Zealots, Priests, Pharisees, Sadducees) and the social gaps brought on the city's destruction. Jerusalem's aristocracy, mainly Sadducees, agreed to compromise in regard to Roman culture on condition that the Jews would continue to enjoy religious autonomy and that Jerusalem remain the religious centre. The Pharisees, claimed that it was preferable to lose Jerusalem rather than compromise on Jewish culture and identity which according to them, was the centre of Jewish life. There were even those who claimed that Jerusalem under gentile rule was not a true Jerusalem. And therefore a "Celestial Jerusalem" must be founded someplace else-a spiritual Jerusalem where the emphasis would be on spiritual life (the Essenes). Jerusalem's Jewish aristocracy, the wealthy inhabitants of the Upper City began to integrate into Roman culture. In contrast those opposed to the Romans lived, for the most part in the lower city. The day came when those with extreme beliefs in Jewish values and traditions, would begin physical resistance against the Romans and the Jews faithful to the empire. Was it preferable to die in a revolt for Jewish principals and freedom, or to live under political oppression?

After lunch we went into the City of David and saw foundations from David's time. Then we went through Hezekiel's tunnel which was a lot of fun - walking though a very narrow dark tunnel with shin deep water flowing through it. So I was glad I was with a group. It is an amazing engineering feat and they are still unsure how they achieved it. The tunnel finishes at the Pool of Siloam which they only found in 2005 by accident but they haven't been able to fully excavate it as the land is owned by the Greek Orthodox Church.

Pool of Siloam - man born blind. First reaction was to look for someone to blame. Jesus - forget about apportioning blame and let's do something to solve the problem.

Day 8
Today we had communion at the Garden Tomb which was probably not Jesus' tomb but is more like his tomb would have been. As you walk out there is a notice which says, He is not here. He is risen, which is really meaningful to read at the site.

At the Garden Tomb I was reminded of the slave girl who Abraham Lincoln bought to set free. She said: "Well sir, if that's the case, (that you have secured my freedom) then I choose to serve you all the days of my life."

From there we visited a current archaeological dig and the person in charge explained various aspects of the site. Decisions have to be made about what to keep and what to excavate, which was helpful information when looking at other digs.

Next we went to the southern wall excavation which is probably where Pentecost occurred, logically you need space for 3000 people and access to water for baptisms, which there would have been because of all the Mikvah's. This was the entrance point to the temple mount so Jesus must have walked here!

Link to Day 9 & 10.

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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Devotional Thought : Ezra 6:3-4

In the first year of King Cyrus, the king issued a decree concerning the temple of God in Jerusalem: Let the temple be rebuilt as a place to present sacrifices, and let its foundations be laid. It is to be sixty cubits high and sixty cubits wide with three courses of large stones and one of timbers. The costs are to be paid by the royal treasury. Ezra 6:3-4

"The temple that King Solomon built for the LORD was sixty cubits long, twenty wide and thirty high" (1 Kings 6:2).

The new temple was expected to be much larger and twice as high as Solomon's. Furthermore Cyrus was prepared to pay for it, yet it seems the resulting temple was smaller than Solomon's (3:12).

According to Josephus Herod blamed Cyrus for determining the measurements "… nor let any one condemn our fathers for their negligence or want of piety herein, for it was not their fault that the temple was no higher; for they were Cyrus, and Darius the son of Hystaspes, who determined the measures for its rebuilding; … they had not the opportunity to follow the original model of this pious edifice, nor could raise it to its ancient altitude" (Josephus 380-390).

The Bible does not apportion blame or explain why it wasn't built to specifications. Was the project was too overwhelming for the small group of newly returned exiles? Perhaps they lack the faith or willingness to commit to such an undertaking.

It is interesting that it was Herod, of dubious Jewish heritage, who restored the Temple to its original glory. Even Jesus' disciples were impressed: “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” (Mark 13:1).

God will fulfil his purposes. Let's exercise our faith and be part of that fulfilment, rather than leaving it to others.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Belated Blog Tour : The Songs of Jesse Adams

I was in Israel when the blog tour for The Songs of Jesse Adams by Peter McKinnon was organized by Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance . However I thought I would post the details now:



is introducing


Acorn Press

by

Peter McKinnon


About the Book:
Set in the turmoil of social change and political unrest of Australia during the 1960s, The Songs of Jesse Adams traces the meteoric rise of a boy from the bush – a farmer’s son who breaks away to follow his heart, his dreams and his love of music. But, as Jesse travels with his band and the crowds gather, it becomes clear that something else is afoot. This rock singer captivates and transforms a host of fans who hear his songs and encounter his touch.

Lives are changed in unexpected ways and the enigmatic Jesse becomes a symbol of hope and freedom for those on society’s edge. But not all will celebrate the rising tide of influence of this charismatic figure whose words and actions challenge those in power – the media, the politicians, the church. In one tumultuous week this clash of ideals comes to a head – with profound consequences.

Awash in all the protest and collapse of conservative Australia, the colour and madness that was the sixties, The Songs of Jesse Adams is a tale of conflict, betrayal and tragedy, but ultimately the triumph of love.

*Warning this book contains some language that some readers may find offensive*


About the Author:
For seventeen years, Peter McKinnon held senior roles in some of Australia’s largest corporations, with a focus on human behaviour and organisational effectiveness. This culminated in his appointment in 1999 as Executive General Manager, People & Culture, of Australia’s then largest financial organisation, National Australia Bank.

In late 2006, Peter was approached to head up the global human resources function of World Vision International(WVI), based in Los Angeles. WVI is the world’s largest humanitarian aid organisation, with over 40,000 employees in 100 different countries and countless volunteers working in highly diverse and challenging settings.

When he returned to Australia in late 2009, he committed to pursuing his creative interests more directly and began to write. ‘The Songs of Jesse Adams’ is the result.

Peter has been published in publications as wide-ranging as the ‘Age’, ‘The Australian Women’s Weekly’ and ‘4 x 4‘ magazine and regards winning a Pacific cruise for his writing as his crowning achievement in this field ! He has also written and produced several musicals.

Peter is a qualified psychologist, has studied theology, worked briefly as a minister and served on the Council of the MCD University of Divinity.

He lives in Melbourne with his wife Julie. This is his first book.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Journal of my trip to Israel – Day 5 & 6

Day 5
This morning we visited three museums. First the Israeli Museum which had an enormous model of the Old City which was very helpful in understanding where things were in Jesus' time.

Second the Shrine of the Book where they keep the Dead Sea Scrolls. The scrolls were very neatly written.

Dead Sea Scrolls spoke of dedication, excellence, skill of the scribes. Their work blessed future generations. Excellences points to God whereas perfectionism points to man.

Third the Holocaust Memorial which was quite confronting. However the most amazing thing was the connection made between the loss of six millions Jews in World War II with the fact that three years later Israel was declared a nation.

In the Holocaust memorial there was no sense of blaming God or disbelieving in God but rather that out of suffering came rebirth. Their suffering had a purpose. Germany is now Israel's biggest supporter after the US.

This afternoon we started visiting some of the sites connected with Jesus' last week - upper room, pit where Jesus was held overnight and courtyard where Peter denied Jesus. In the 4th century when Christianity was recognized they seemed to build a church on every significant Christian site in Jerusalem. Still, it is the location that is important not the building.

Day 6
Today the bus took us to the base of the Mount of Olives and we walked in the Kidron Valley where there are some huge tombs there carved from the cliffs. Then we went to a garden which is very probably Gethsemane. There is now a church there but it was good to be there and read the Gospel account.

Garden of Gethsemane - in a challenging situation like the one the disciples found themselves in, the human response is fight or flight. Peter's response was to fight but the other disciples' response was to flee. However God often wants us to stay and wait for his purposes to be revealed. The disciples were forgiven yet they learnt more godly responses through God's enabling.

Then we went into the Old City and saw the pool of Bethsaida where Jesus healed the man who was apparently waiting for the angel to stir the water. We visited, The Church of St Anne which has very good acoustics and it is common for groups to sing. Our group sang How Great Thou Art and How Great is our God. The Canadian group after us sang, Holy Holy Holy so we stay and sang that too. It was like a foretaste of heaven to sing with Christians from other nations.

Pool of Bethsaida – was possibly by a temple to another god. People hedge their bets thinking if one god doesn't heal me maybe another one will. God's miracles are not like pieces of a pie. God has unlimited resources. No one else can steal my blessings or my miracles!

From there we walked the Via Dolorosa (Way of the Cross). The path Jesus walked after Pilate handed him over to be crucified. It is quite likely the path as the roads are basically in the same place as they were then. After lunch we went to the Holy Sepulchre - the place where Jesus was crucified and buried – it is unrecognisable with religious buildings all over and around it.

Link to Day 7 & 8.

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Devotional Thought : Ezra 4:1

When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the Lord, the God of Israel, they came to Zerubbabel …and said, “Let us help you build…" Ezra 4:1

Ezra immediately identifies these people as "enemies" yet it seems they want to help. They said, "because, like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here" (v.2).

The problem was they did not worship the Lord exclusively. If the returning exiles had let these people help them they would have had some claim to the temple and used it to worship other gods. These people eventually became Samaritans.

Some commentators criticise the Jews for not letting these people help and suggest that the Samaritans would not have become a separate group of people if they had. Yet the Jews' motive was to keep their worship of God pure and have nothing to do with foreign gods. This is entirely understandable when you consider that they have just returned from a seventy year exile which came about largely because of idol worship.

Perhaps the things that really confirms these people as enemies is once they weren't allowed to help they become persistently discouraging (v.4-5). It revealed their mixed motives.

Sometimes not being allowed to help is the thing that reveals motives. How to we feel when we are stopped by others from performing some act of service or helpful deed? Do we become angry and disillusioned? If so, perhaps we need to consider why we offered to help. Were we hoping to gain something in return? A monetary gift, grateful acknowledgement, favour, or a boost in our self-esteem?

Let's do our giving unconditionally simply because we want to bless someone else.

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Bringing God pleasure

Eric Liddell is credited with saying, “God made me fast and when I run, I feel his pleasure.” God was the one who created us with the ability to do certain things well. It is therefore somewhat surprising he can take pleasure in those very things. If we have artistic ability and create a painting, God is pleased. Yet surely God could have produced a much better painting and he has. He has given us sunsets and sunrises which far outstrip our abilities with paint and brushes. God is an extravagant Creator. He does not just create one type of flower or one type of dog but he created masses of varieties. He doesn’t create one type of grass or one type of heavenly body but a vast assortment. Nevertheless God is like a parent who takes pleasure in the pictures his children bring home from kindergarten.

For a long time I associated God’s pleasure with more “sacred” activities like going to church and Bible study groups. However God does not distinguish between secular and sacred activities. Everything is sacred. This means whether I am using my creative abilities, my homemaking ability, or my abilities in church activities, we can bring God pleasure by the way we use the gifts he has given us. God intends for us to enjoy doing things for which he has gifted us. 1 Timothy 6:17 tells us that people should “…put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” He expects us to enjoy those things he has provided.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Journal of my trip to Israel – Day 3 & 4

Day 3
Today we travelled to Tel Arad where there is an archaeological site with six levels of settlement dating from the period of the Judean Kingdom – 900 to 600 BC. The fortress area contained a temple with a Holy of Holies which is surprising since the only Holy of Holies was supposed to be in Jerusalem. Residential structures were also found. On the same site there are also remains of a Canaanite city from about 3000 BC.

Archaeology often has different chronology to Biblical history. Is this because the Bible doesn't record history accurately? Is this because archaeological timing is inaccurate? Is it because we only have some of the information and not all? Interesting that the central stones in every house in Tel Arad are broken and suggests a deliberate act of violence perpetrated against foreign gods.

Next went to Tel Beer Shev - where there are also many layers of civilizations. They keep building on the same sites because they are on a travel route and near a water source. The first fortified city was established here in about 900 BC as one of the important administrative centres of the Kingdom of Judah. A four-horned altar was reconstructed from stones found buried in the storehouse. The fact that it has been dismantled and buried attests to a change in the kingdom's ritual customs. This is in line with the religious reforms initiated by King Hezekiah (800 BC) according to the Bible 2 Kings 18:1-4. (The temple discovered at Tel Arad was also done away with in this reform.). A well was also found at the gate and some feel this is connected to the one mentioned in Genesis 21:27-32.

Then we visited the Australian war memorial for Light Horse Brigade in WWI. The Australian Light Horses secured the water supply at Beersheba and thus ensure victory over the Turks which lead to freeing Jerusalem and eventually paved the way for Israel to become a country again.

Arrived in Jerusalem just as it was getting dark.

Day 4
This morning we went to the Mount of Olives where there are great views of the Old City. It was emotional looking at the Old City from the Mount of Olives thinking about Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. There are churches on all the significant Christian spots so there is a church here called Dominus Flevit meaning, The Lord has wept.

There's lots of grave stones in the Kidron Valley. This is where it is believed that Elijah had his vision of the dry bones being resurrected.

Interesting people wanted to be buried in the Kidron Valley in order to be the first to be resurrected! They spend big money to get this prime real estate to be buried here. Do they really think this is how God operates?

We then went to Herodian - another of Herod's palaces and an important archaeological site.

From there we went to Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity which was somewhat of an anti climax since the church has been built over the spot and looks nothing like it would have done. However we also went to the Shepherds Fields where there are caves and it felt a bit more like Jesus' time.

When King Herod asked where the Messiah would be born the religious people of the day knew, but they did nothing because he didn't met their expectations. Likewise God may want to do something outside our expectation.

Link to Day 5 & 6.

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Saturday, December 06, 2014

Devotional Thought : Micah 4:2

Many nations will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. Micah 4:2

One day the nations will want to know God's ways. One day it will be obviously living God's ways is the best way to live. One day the world will realize how wonderful it is to live under God's government.

God chose the nation of Israel to show the world how good it was to live under his Sovereignty. Israel was supposed to be a light to the nations. Through Abraham it was clear that God's intention was for his blessings to flow to all nations (Genesis 12:3). Yet Israel did not follow God's commands and therefore did not give God a good name among the nations. In fact God's complaint against his people as recorded in Ezekiel 36:16-38 was instead of making following God attractive to other nations, they had profaned his holy name.

Nevertheless in the New Testament we find Paul and Barnabas quoting Isaiah 42:6 in Acts 13:47 expressing the thought that they were called to be "a light for the Gentiles."

Today God's intention is that Christians are light to their communities so that people will see how good it is to live according to God's ways. The way we live our lives is suppose to be attractive to others. It doesn't mean our life will be without difficulties but it should be seen that our lives have meaning and purpose, that we have a source of strength and peace beyond ourselves, and that we have a hope that defies logic.

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Thursday, December 04, 2014

Book Review : The Blue Hen

Des Dillon captures the hopelessness and despair of the long term unemployed in his short book, The Blue Hen. The book portrays the effects of continuing unemployment in a small village near Glasgow and the resulting downward spiral into drug abuse, alcoholism and depression.

The story focuses on two men, John and his friend who is not named. The story is told from the point of view of the unnamed friend. John and his friend were employed at a local factory which produced steel tubes for gas pipes. They spent months expecting the factory to close yet when it does they, and their work mates, are unprepared for the ongoing ramifications. Many are left unemployed with few prospects for obtaining regular work again. Too many idle people cause numerous social problems. John and his friend attempt several schemes to earn money but all are thwarted by lack of knowledge, lack of skill or by being sabotaged by former work mates.

Des Dillon does an excellent job in capturing the frustration and dejection of the perpetual jobless.

This book is part of the Quick Reads series and is an insightful read.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Journal of my trip to Israel - Day 1 & 2

Day 1

My trip to Israel was part of a group tour organized by Harvest Bible College. It was a study tour and a subject for my Bachelor in Christian Ministry. Some of the historic information in these posts comes from brochures given to us at the sites. The paragraphs in italics are some spiritual reflections - some mine, some the tour leaders, and some from other group members.

We flew to Amman in Jordan and our first stop was Mt. Nebo which I found disappointing. It was hazy which is apparently normal due to sand from the desert so not a great view. I also suspect it was much greener and perhaps less rocky when Moses saw it (?)

Moses saw the promise but did not enter it however he paved the way so Joshua could. Sometimes our role is to pave the way for others.

From Mt. Nebo we went to the Allenby Bridge to cross into Israel which took some time. From there we went to Qumran which was where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. It was where the Essenes lived in Jesus' time. In 68 AD during the Great Jewish revolt, the Romans conquered Qumran and dispersed the sect. A Roman garrison was then stationed at Qumran but when this was relocated, the site was abandoned.

The Essenes saw that the priesthood had become more political than spiritual and isolated themselves at Qumran. They made their community secretive, and difficult for others to join or leave. This is not Christ like or the model of the early church. In times of difficulties isolation is not the answer.

Day 2
This morning saw the sun rise over the Dead Sea after an exhausting walk up Masada (caught the cable car on return).

Masada is a historic site rather than a Biblical site. Herod (37 BC to 4 AD) built palaces on Masada as his winter retreat. There may have been a settlement prior to this but no remains have confirmed this. In 66 AD at the start of the Great Jewish Revolt a group of Zealots captured Masada. Over the next 4 years they were joined by fleeing Jews. They lived there for a further 3 or 4 years until the Roman siege in 73 or 74 AD. When they realized that defeat was inevitable they made a pact to kill each other as they considered death preferable to slavery.

At Masada we see an example of Jewish thinking. Another example is the Jewish perspective of Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac. They note Abraham's willingness not whether or not he actually sacrifice his son. As Christians we are called to sacrifice our life choices in order to follow God's choices for our life. Romans 12:1

From Masada we went to En Gadi where David hid from Saul in about 1000 BC. No archaeological findings support this. However it is a good place hide with lots of caves and a water spring.

At En Gadi David could have killed Saul but David did not push his claim to the throne rather he let God bring it about in his own time. We have to give grace to our leaders as God deals with them in his timing. Our responsibility is to be the person God wants us to be.

After lunch we went for a swim in the Dead Sea which was good fun. It is really strange once you lie down it is actually hard to push your feet down as it is so buoyant.

Link to Day 3 & 4.

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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Home Again!

My trip to Israel went very well. It was an amazing time and I saw and heard many remarkable things. However it was also very tiring. In the two weeks I spent in Israel the group visited 25 archaeological sites, 22 historical sites plus 10 other site (lookouts, museums etc.). I walked over 10k per day and went up and down countless steps. Consequently I've been a bit slow to return to my normal blogging resume. Hopefully I will be back into routine soon.

I am planning to write about my trip in a series of posts over the coming weeks.

Addendum: The first of these posts is here.

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

On returning from my trip to Israel

Yesterday I returned from my study tour of Israel. I wrote about the trip here. I scheduled a number of posts while I was away and this one is the last of them. I imagine I am currently sleeping off jet lag. Hope to write about the trip soon.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Book Review : The Night Country

I took the opportunity of reading this short book as it was shelved in my library alongside all the other much longer Bryce Courtenay's books. This small book gave me the opportunity of sampling Bryce Courtenay's style without having to commit to a long read.

Courtenay writes in a descriptive way which paints a picture and this would have been appealing if the story line had been more pleasant. The story is set in Africa and is told from the point of view of a young boy. I assume Courtenay drew on his own experience of growing up in the Limpopo province to write the book. Courtenay reveals the deep prejudices that kept apartheid alive for so long and the ingrained lies that white people believed. In this the story is profoundly distressing.

Personally I found it even more upsetting that the white people's understanding of the Christian God was badly flawed.

I found it a well written but disturbing read.

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Devotional Thought : Psalm 29:11

The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace. Psalm 29:11

Strength and peace are not often seen together outside the Christian community. Strength is associated with aggressiveness and domination while peace is seen as a passive and spineless.

Yet the strength God give is not aggressive. It is an enabling to do things that we would not normally be able to do. To hold our tongue when we really want to express our anger; deal with a difficult situation which we would rather avoid; express kindness when usually we would feel apathy. God strengthens us to be people of integrity, wisdom and compassion.

Together with strength he gives us peace, not to concede defeat but to have an inner calm whatever the situation. In John 14:27 Jesus says, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." God gifts us with peace but it is reliant on us not allowing our hearts to be troubled and afraid. Otherwise we lose the peace he gives us.

Earlier in the chapter when Jesus also told his disciples not to let their hearts be troubled he added, "You believe in God; believe also in me" (v.1). Peace comes from trusting God and believing his plans will ultimately work out for good in our lives, even if they are uncomfortable in the short term. It's knowing that he will strengthen us to handle whatever we are facing.

Therefore God's strengthening actually enables us to live in peace because whatever comes, we know we are able to cope with it.

Strength and peace – two essentials for a spiritual life and God freely gives them to his people.

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

How to win an election

I don't usually write humorous stories but was recently challenged to write one, this is the result (names have been changed to protect the guilty!):

The election for the Year 10 sports captain was taking place the next week at the small school that my son, Ian, attended and already Tom and Emily had been nominated. They appeared set to take out the positions of captain and vice-captain, though with almost equal numbers of girls and boys in year 10, it was going to be close as to who took out the top job.

Then Ian, was asked if he would accept a nomination. He was thrilled. He loved sport and though not a natural athlete was an enthusiastic participant. He was popular and a natural public speaker. However as Ian considered the nomination he realised that while he was likely to gain more than half of the boys' votes he would not get much of the girls' votes, since they would vote for Emily. The more he considered it the more he realised that accepting the nomination would split the boys' vote and hand victory to Emily. He decided not to stand, but it gave him an idea.

The next morning at recess he suggested to the Year 10 boys, that they nominate another girl who would effectively split the girls' vote and hand victory to Tom. His classmates were so delighted with the idea that they nominated another four girls! The girls were flattered to be asked by their male classmates who didn't usually treat them with such regard. The teachers were pleased that the boys were acting more responsibly than normal and treating the girls with favour.

Ian however was getting a little worried that his plan was beginning to look blatantly obvious with one boy and five girls standing for the election, so another boy was nominated. He was completely unsuitable.

The day of the election arrived and the ballot papers handed out in class. The boys huddled around and completed their papers doubly covering their tracks by making sure they put down different female preferences for their second and third choices.

Tom romped to an easy victory and was congratulated. The teacher also congratulated the rest of the class for the mature way in which they had conducted themselves during the election.

Ian came home and proudly told me that Tom was the newly elected sports captain. He then proceeded to tell me exactly how this had come about.

I didn't know whether to be appalled that my 15 year old son had successfully rigged an election or laugh at the naiveté of the teachers. I chose to do the later.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Book Review : Men at Work

Men at Work was a surprising book for me, probably because it comes from a very male perspective. Mike Gayle creates a story that examines a man's connection with his job.

Gayle's main character, Ian loves his job, though really it is the camaraderie he loves. Ian enjoys being with people and the relationships with the other staff which often continues after work. He even refuses a promotion because he doesn't want to change the work relationships he currently experiences.

When his girlfriend, Emma loses her job and manages to pick up work in Ian's office he is deeply disturbed. He doesn't want Emma upsetting the status quo at work which, of course, she does.

Ian is desperate to not have Emma at this work place and goes to extraordinary lengths to convince her not to stay. Yet it is only when she leaves he realized that his love for Emma is greater than his job. Something he would never heave realized if she not accepted the job at his office.

An enlightening insight into a man's world.

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Devotional Thought : Psalm 27:13

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Psalm 27:13

The attitude of the world is the opposite of David's. People tend to expect things to go wrong. The principle of Murphy's Law is, "If something can go wrong, it will." Since we live in a fallen world it is understandable why people feel this way, but it is not the attitude of David, and not one Christians should adopt.

David understood that God wants to bless us. He also wrote, "Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever" (Psalm 23:6).

However things do go wrong, we don't feel bless and we don't experience God's goodness and love in ways we understand it. Unfortunately God's goodness and love doesn't mean we are going to have a comfortable life with no major problems.

God's goodness and love assures of his presence with us, his strength to face whatever comes, his peace, his comfort. It is not an escape from our problems but an enabling that means we have nothing to fear or dread about the future. We can relax in the peace of God knowing he is in control and has considered every unforeseen event.

Furthermore because David expected to see God's blessings, God rewarded his faith. Some Christians are afraid to expect blessing and favour from God because they don't want to be disillusioned if something troublesome happens. However our expectations are based on what is convenient and comfortable. God has a bigger view in mind. He is using our circumstances to shape and mould us into people he can truly bless, not with mere material blessings but with eternal ones.

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Fearing Pleasure

Dallas Willard, an American philosophy professor and author wrote, "We dishonor God as much by fearing and avoiding pleasure as we do by dependence upon it or living for it."

Last week I mentioned this verse: "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment" (1 Timothy 6:17). God wants his children to enjoy their lives, neither fearing pleasure or depending upon it.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Book Review : Money Magic

I found Money Magic to be a very helpful book. Alvin Hall didn't just outline the practical steps needed to find financial freedom but also talked about how our emotions are involved in our financial choices.

Hall looks at the different attitudes people have towards money and some of issues that influence their decisions.

I was also interested to read his own story of financial distress which lead him to make changes. Other important areas that Hall covers are financial decisions in a relationship, and also in a marriage break down.

Hall gives many practical tips in regard to getting out of debt and saving money. Not all will work for everyone but will provide a starting point for those keen to find financial freedom.

The subtitle, seven simple steps to financial freedom, is a bit of a misnomer as they are not really steps but thoughts to consider.

Overall a useful resource.

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Saturday, November 08, 2014

Devotional Thought : Psalm 19:1-4

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. Psalm 19:1-4

We don't always need words to get our message across. The skies "pour forth speech" and "reveal knowledge" yet have no words; nevertheless "their voice goes out into all the earth". God's handiwork is revealed to all. From the busiest, crowded city to the remotest, inaccessible places of the world, God has made it possible for everyone to know him (Romans 1:20).

Likewise my life speaks to those around me, whether I use words or not. The way I spend my time, the way I spend my money tell people what I value and this pours forth a message. God's Presence in my life also speaks to those around me. The fruit of his Spirit within me will touch others with its sweetness. His refining work in my life speaks volume.

Many ignore the declaration of the glory of God in his handiwork and they will ignore it in my life too. However, it is not my job to convict others of their need for God but rather for my life to show how good it is to live under God's government – to create curiosity, desire and a longing for something more.

Yet if I am not convinced God's way is best, that his love is sufficient and his purposes good, then I will not attract anyone else to this way of life. My words will never be enough, there has to be a lifestyle that matches my beliefs.

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Thursday, November 06, 2014

Blog Tour : Her Tycoon Hero

This blog tour is for the novel, Her Tycoon Hero by Narelle Atkins. This book is part of a blog tour organized by Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance

My book review can be found here.


3 – 7 November


is introducing


Harlequin's Love Inspired Heartsong Presents


About the Book

Cassie Beaumont Believes in Second Chances

Set on proving to everyone that she's no longer a party girl, Cassie is focused on her career as an event planner. But her dad's top executive, Ryan Mitchell, proves to be a handsome distraction. Especially when someone from Cassie's wild past tries to get her tangled in the life she's worked hard to escape.

Ryan is taken with his boss's beautiful daughter. But having been fooled by a brother who ran in her same circles, he is slow to trust. When Cassie's newfound faith works its way into his heart, Ryan soon finds he wants to claim both her faith and Cassie as his own.


About the Author

NARELLE ATKINS writes contemporary inspirational romance and lives in Canberra, Australia. She sold her debut novel, set in Australia, to Harlequin's Love Inspired Heartsong Presents line in a six-book contract. She is also a member of International Christian Fiction Writers and Australasian Christian Writers group blogs.
http://internationalchristianfictionwriters.blogspot.com
http://australasianchristianwriters.blogspot.com

Narelle is a co-founder with Jenny Blake of the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance (ACRBA).
http://acrba.blogspot.com

Her debut book, Falling for the Farmer, was released in February 2014, followed by The Nurse's Perfect Match in May 2014 and The Doctor's Return in August 2014.

Website: http://www.narelleatkins.com
Blog: http://narelleatkins.wordpress.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NarelleAtkinsAuthor
Twitter: @NarelleAtkins https://twitter.com/NarelleAtkins

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Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Book Review : Her Tycoon Hero

Her Tycoon Hero 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.

The book is a Harlequin Love Inspired novel by Narelle Atkins. (Love Inspired Fiction is described as, "Contemporary inspirational romances that feature Christian characters facing the many challenges of life and love in today’s world.")

It is an enjoyable story about the relationship that grows between Cassie Beaumont, a reformed party girl and Ryan Mitchell an ambitious executive with a flourishing career on his mind. Cassie and Ryan are well drawn characters, who are very believable and face real life dramas.

There are several unexpected developments as Cassie and Ryan work through many challenges, some from friends and relations while others are more personal. I like the way the story explores a number of issues – family dynamics, career choices and the role of faith. It doesn't give instant answers but comes to a satisfying ending.

The Christian element is well blended into the story line without being the main focus. I also enjoyed the backdrop of being set in Sydney.

Overall an engaging read.

Thanks to Narelle Atkins for providing a free book for review.

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Saturday, November 01, 2014

Devotional Thought : John 11:21

"Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died." John 11:21

I am sure we all know how Martha felt and have said similar things ourselves. The truth is God could have stopped her brother from dying.

So how do we respond when God does not answer our prayers the way we want him to or as quickly as we want him to? Do we feel disillusioned? Or do we acknowledge he is my Heavenly Father and he can be trusted whatever the outcome. After all, ultimately God is in control and we have very little control over most things. This can be difficult if our sense of security is linked to being in control of our circumstances. Slowly but surely, as we commit our circumstances to the Lord, our trust in his divine care will grow.

The Bible teaches that Jesus was familiar with suffering—he experienced it for himself. It is likely Joseph died while Jesus was still living at home in Nazareth and there is no reason to think Jesus would not have experienced all the normal difficulties of living in a fallen world including questions surrounding the legitimacy of his birth. Jesus knows what we go through, yet during his time on earth, he was able to experience joy and peace in the midst of troubles.

So we never have to feel alone with our problems or feel no one understands. Even if the people around us do not understand, we have Jesus our high priest who goes through every experience with us. Rather than trust our feelings we can choose to believe that God knows best. He acts in our best interests, though not always for our convenience. Nevertheless his presence and his care will always be enough.

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

He feels it too

Saul’s conversion on the Damascus road took place many years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Yet when Jesus confronted him, he asked, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4). Jesus is speaking using the present tense—why do you persecute me? Jesus lives in his followers. This is not some nice theological theory but here we see a very practical application of this truth. Again in the next verse we find Jesus saying, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” When Christians are hurt, persecuted, abused, ridiculed, Jesus feels it too.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Book Review : Blaze in the Storm

Jenny Glazebrook's books remind me of what it's like to be a young Christian and a teenager. Jenny does a great job of capturing the teenager/young adult world with stories that draw you in. Her characters are believable and the settings realistic.

Blaze in the Storm is the first in a series of six which introduces the Clement family. Six new children at school is bound to cause a stir especially with their circus background and their excessive love of horses. Bonnie is drawn to the eldest, Blaze but his overly Christian stance is off putting as he has yet to learn how to express his faith with grace and gentleness.

Jenny is also unafraid of putting her characters in difficult situations which causes them to question their faith. Some of these difficulties are life threatening, others are the disillusionment with other Christians, but all are part of the Christian life. Jenny also understands how God works healing into a person's life which may take years to bear fruit.

This is a great novel for young adults as there is so much for them to identify with from school yard name callers to high achievers to those who are simply bored and enjoy disrupting the classroom.

A great read.

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Devotional Thought : Luke 2:48

When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you." Luke 2:48

Jesus' parents were astonished when they found him in the temple courts, sitting with the teachers listening to them and asking questions (v.46). Were they astonished because they expected to find him playing with the other children, rather than conversing with the adults? Were they astonished because they expected him to be upset about being left behind? Were they astonished because he wasn't concerned about their feelings?

Mary said, "Why have you treated us like this?" As if she sees Jesus' behaviour as a deliberate attempt to cause his parents grief, instead of his curiosity with the things of God. Jesus was twelve and considered an adult in Jewish society. Jesus knew it was time to grow up and start taking his destiny seriously. He needed to learn as much as he could while he was in Jerusalem and had access to the teachers there.

Still I suspect people today still say to Jesus, "Why have you treated us like this?" Why have you allowed this anxiety, this worrying turn of events or this inconvenience? You must have known this situation would cause us to worry unnecessarily. You could have intervened sooner and prevented it? Often we expect Jesus to be more concerned with our comfort than his purposes and then wonder why we feel abandoned.

Yet today we always know where Jesus is. He is with us and in us, even when it seems otherwise. He always cares. Yet his heart is for his father's business, for those things which are important to God. His presence is not merely designed to keep us happy and comfortable.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

God the Enough

Mark Buchanan is one of my favourite authors and I particularly enjoyed his book, The Holy Wild which I have read and reread. I particularly like this story, which I may have mentioned before. It illustrates the importance of understanding that God is enough:

A woman whose husband left her for another woman after many years of supposedly happy married life said this, "In the first year or so after he left, there were many things I thought of doing—selfish, sinful things. But you know what kept me from doing them? Thinking that one day I will stand before God in heaven and to explain to God why living for him, by his strength wasn’t enough."

One of the names of God, El Shaddai, contains the idea that God is enough. Whatever we are going through God is enough. If all we had in the world was God that would be enough. It is a challenging thought. Often we think in order to be happy we need a certain level of material blessing, family, friends, a fulfilling job etc. Yet all these things are temporal and can be lost in minutes. Our only real security is found in God.

God is also the only one who can satisfy our deep longings for significance, fulfillment and value. When things go wrong, remember in spite of everything, God is enough and he will get us through if we will let him help us.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Book Review : Worlds Beyond Words

Worlds Beyond Words by Alison Stokes is a collection of stories about people who have had grown up with learning difficulties, especially dyslexia. Mostly this went undiagnosed when they were children causing much anguish in school and in life. The stories are first person accounts of these struggles.

Yet they are all stories of triumph as they sought help, usually as adults, to overcome their difficulties with reading and writing. For many the battle goes on as they continue to seek to improve their reading skills.

This book is part of the Quick Reads series. Often the writers mention these books in their accounts as being an encouragement in the development of their reading skills, since they are short, often in large print and generally good stories. For a person with dyslexia the challenge of reading a normal length novel can be overwhelming.

This is an enjoyable collection of nine short stories which are quite inspiring as you read about the difficulties people have overcome to achieve their goals.

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Devotional Thought : Psalm 15:5

Whoever does these things will never be shaken. Psalm 15:5

Summarizing the list of behaviours in this Psalm tells us that whoever is kind, speaks the truth, is reliable, keeps their promise, makes an honest living and generally does the right thing is not "shaken". They are not shaken because they don't live in fear of being found out, or worry about something from their past having ongoing repercussions or fear someone they have hurt will retaliate. They can live in peace and not be worried about their past haunting their present life.

These days there are many high profile politicians and corporate leaders who live in fear that something from their past will be dug up by the media. Perhaps they experimented with drugs or excessive alcohol at university, had a sexual or financial indiscretion, lost their temper or behaved badly in a public place. If uncovered the best outcome might be severe embarrassment or the worst scenario might be losing their job.

The world sometimes mocks the way Christians live as if they are strange and deprived because they do not involve themselves in dubious life style choices. They avoid activities which compromise their standards and disadvantage others. They can be relied upon to do what they commit to. Long term Christians can become the best candidates for high profile positions because their employers have less to worry about when the media starts trolling their past.

The Message puts this verse this way, "You’ll never get blacklisted if you live like this." Living a morally sound life is not only God honouring but a sensible way to live. It brings more blessings than we realize and one of them is that we never have to worry about being shunned by people if they discover our past.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

On attaching blame

If you are familiar with Winnie the Pooh you may remember the time Pooh bear visited Owl at his house which was a small wooden bird box perched in a tree. While he was there the wind blew Owl’s house out of the tree. Initially Owl thought it must be Pooh’s fault but when he realized it was not he said, "'If it was the wind,' said Owl, considering the matter, 'then it wasn’t Pooh’s fault. No blame can be attached to him'" (The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne).

This story reflects our desire to know who is to blame when things go wrong. I suspect this is because if we know who is to blame it makes us feel there is at least some measure of control in the unpleasant things that happen. But when random awful things happen, like your house being blown out of a tree, it is disconcerting to realize that no one is to blame. This may translate to, no one is in control and there is no security anywhere.

Fortunately, as Christians we know this is not the case. Even when awful things happen we can rest assured it comes as no surprise to God. We live in a fallen world where sometimes things seem completely out of control. Yet the Bible tells us, "underneath are the everlasting arms" (Deuteronomy 33:27), and in that we can find peace and security.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Book Review : Gang of Four

I enjoyed Liz Byrski's story, Gang of Four. It revolves around four women, Isabel, Sally, Robin and Grace who are friends in their early fifties. Their lives have become repetitive and limited but it is not until Isabel makes a break, that the others are embolden to make changes themselves.

I found the four characters, although in a similar life stage, to be believable and different enough from each other, to make it easy to keep track of them as the story jumped from one character to another, overlapping from time to time before continuing on.

The four friends come from different marital situations. Isabel is married, Grace a widow, Sally is unmarried and Robin is having an affair. They are all successful in their careers. Yet they are all in various states of discontent and have unresolved issues from their past or present. While initially it is Isabel who finds the courage to step out of her comfort zone to make the changes that will enhance her future, slowly the others follow her lead and realize that it is possible, even at their age, to make changes.

Sally and Robin both have secrets they have not shared with the others, which is surprising given the close nature of the friendships, but understandable. Through the story they confront their secrets and find some sense of freedom.

The book ends on a sad, but hopeful note, where each of them has gained a better perspective on themselves and their lives.

This was a pleasurable read, especially for women in this stage of life where children are independent and life changes can still be made.

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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Devotional Thought : Psalm 7:9

Bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure—you, the righteous God who probes minds and hearts. Psalm 7:9

We want God to bring to an end the violence of the wicked and for the righteous to be secure. We want God to step into our world and fix it. Bring justice to the wicked and achieve freedom from strife for the righteous. We want peace but God wants pure motives. God, we discover, is more interested in our motives than in our comfort. This is not a happy thought. God will allow unpleasant circumstances because he is purifying our motives!

Mostly we don't even think about our motives. We don't consider why we favour one course of action over another. We make decisions that seem so obvious to us that we assume that anyone in our position would make the same ones.

I heard the story of two sons born to an alcoholic father. One became a teetotaller and the other an alcoholic. When asked how these life style choices happened, both replied: "With a father like mine, what would you expect?"

Same circumstances, different outcomes because of the motives and attitudes of the people involved. We are more unique than we realize. What really motives us? Why do we make the choices we make? What are we hoping to gain? Normally we only examine our motives when we have a problem, when something isn't working out the way we expect, which is perhaps God's intention.

However motives aren't easy to identify. David prayed: "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts" (Psalm 139:23).

When it comes to motives we need God's help to probe our mind and heart so that he can be our true source of security.

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Thursday, October 09, 2014

Loving and Powerful

There were many times recorded in the New Testament where Jesus’ life was threatened. Paul also was in danger many times and even David in the Old Testament lived with the threat of Saul taking his life. These near-death incidents highlight to us that no one can touch us without God’s permission. We will not die until God is ready to take us home. Those who have taken the attitude, God is loving but not powerful are greatly mistaken.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Book Review : The Coroner's Lunch

The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterill is the first in the series of Dr. Siri mysteries and introduces the unconventional doctor. This story is set in Laos in 1976 against a backdrop of the recent communist take over.

Dr. Siri is appointed the State Coroner, not because of his expertise, but due to the lack of any other qualified personnel. Dr Siri is also not qualified to be a coroner but makes up for his lack of knowledge by consulting text books and anecdotal evidence which is often difficult to come by.

I was enjoying the story until it took an unwarranted detour into the occult world of a remote village, the village where Dr. Siri grew up. I don't mind the odd strange dream, or the bizarre behaviour of the neighbour's dog but it feels like "cheating" when an author has supernatural phenomenon leaving clues.

Nevertheless the characters were well drawn and the murder(s) intriguing.

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Saturday, October 04, 2014

Devotional Thought : Psalm 5:12

Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield. Psalm 5:12

Christians are "the righteous" not because they have attained a standard of righteousness themselves but because Jesus has made them righteous by his blood. "This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe" (Romans 3:22). Christians are given righteousness, it is not earned, it is pure gift.

As Christians we are therefore blessed. God has given us righteousness and we are eternally saved. This is an enormous blessing and one that we will only fully appreciate when we see heaven. Furthermore we are surrounded with the favour of the Lord.

God has numerous ways of bestowing his favour, sometime through unlikely sources like in the times of Ezra: "Praise be to the Lord … who has put it into the king’s heart to bring honor to the house of the Lord" (Ezra 7:27). God can move even a pagan king to act with favour towards his people. At other times he shows favour through ordinary people and circumstances.

Sometimes we are like children who don't appreciate the favour their parents show them but take it for granted. However the more grateful the child the more favour they are likely to receive from their parents. Likewise God is more able to bless grateful children who acknowledge his favour.

Interestingly in this verse God's favour is seen as a shield. His favour could have been described as a coat or a blanket but instead it is portrayed as a shield which immediately speaks to us of protection. It is not our preparation, planning, or our clever schemes that protect us but rather God's favour protects us from the enemy.

Do we acknowledge God's favour and receive it with thankfulness?

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