Saturday, March 29, 2014

Devotional Thought : Joel 3:18

In that day the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will flow with milk; all the ravines of Judah will run with water. A fountain will flow out of the Lord’s house and will water the valley of acacias. Joel 3:18

This prophecy talks about Israel's mountains being so full of grapevines that they will "drip new wine"; the hills will be so full of milk yielding animals that they will "flow with milk"; and the ravines which normally only have water a few days each year "will run with water". It is a picture of abundance, fruitfulness and blessing. It is a picture of what God wants for his people. God wants to bless his people but we block his blessings by demanding our independence.

The reference to a fountain in the Lord's house is particularly interesting as Jerusalem is not near a major river. As Constable writes: "Jerusalem is the only city of antiquity that wasn't built near a great river. Rome had the Tiber; Nineveh was built near the Tigris and Babylon on the Euphrates; and the great Egyptian cities were built near the Nile. But in the kingdom, Jerusalem will have a river that proceeds from the temple of God" (Constable's Commentary). Jerusalem won't be like other great cities but will rely on the God's supernatural provision of water.

It is a reminder that we are not like other people but rather we rely on the supernatural resources of God. His resources are available in abundance yet we are reluctant receivers. Often we would rather struggle through on our own meagre resources rather than admit our inadequacies and trust in God's abundant reservoirs of love and grace.

Let's remind ourselves again of God's abundant resources and avail ourselves of the opportunity to draw on them.

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Book Review : Follow me

Follow Me by Sheila O'Flanagan is a delightful romance. O'Flanagan brings together two characters who are perfectly suited to be in a relationship. Yet the very perfect nature of the relationship is the thing that threatens to separate them as it seems too good to be true thus breeding distrust. The conflict in this story is based on understandable misconstruction and highlights the value of trust.

I enjoyed this story. It is well written, well structured and moves at a good pace. As part of the Quick Reads series, it was a pleasant way to spend an afternoon and leaves the reader feeling satisfied.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Richard Morgan interview

I read this amazing testimony of how Richard Morgan came to Christian faith partly through visiting Richard Dawkins' website. I was particularly interest in this comment:

"All I’m saying now to any unbelievers is that if you are willing to listen with and open mind and an open heart and just say, 'Perhaps... perhaps I do not possess all the truth'. That is an act of humility and I know that God never rejects or ignores acts of humility."

More here: Former Atheist Richard Morgan interview

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Devotional Thought : Zephaniah 1:6

Those who turn back from following the Lord and neither seek the Lord nor inquire of him. Zephaniah 1:6

It wasn't only idolaters who God "stretch out my hand against" (v.4) but those who had stopped following the Lord, stopped seeking him, stopped inquiring of him. It indicates an attitude of self-sufficiency. They didn't think they needed any help, guidance or wisdom.

There are many in the world who have this attitude. They believe they have achieved through their own ingenuity. They do not acknowledge the blessings they have received by being born in a country where advancement is possible. The blessings they have received from an education that was probably compulsory. The blessings they have received because they were not distracted by war or famine or civil unrest. Often it is circumstances that conspire for successful people to be born at the right time, in the right place for them to achieve. There is a fine line between a materially successful life and one that is derailed by misfortunate. That is not to say that successful people have not worked hard to achieve their results. However it is also true to say that many work just as hard to feed themselves and their families.

Success in the world is a fragile commodity which can be swept away with adverse weather, unfavourable financial conditions or the outbreak of political violence. Even so many will not acknowledge God's provision for them.

I know people who have turned their back on Christian faith and before long they are on anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication. Yet they never make the connection between these two events. Likewise in Zephaniah's days people were turning their back on God without considering the consequences.

Let's not be like them but continue following, seeking and inquiring of the Lord.

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Book Review : The Cleverness of Ladies

The title and picture on the front of The cleverness of ladies by Alexander McCall Smith suggested the book was going to be more stories from the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency. However I was disappointed that only the first of the five short stories was about the Agency. All the stories were well written and interesting tales but I found the middle three all failed to capitalize on good beginnings.

The first story about Mme Ramotswe's detective agency was an enjoyable tale based on a simple idea but well executed. The second about a couple opening a successful hotel is rather implausible given the wife's abrasive attitude. The third story about an Italian shopkeeper Fabrizia seemed rather pointless. The fourth story about disappearing wives and a cousin was unfathomable. Were they murdered by the Captain? However I did like the last story – Music helps with its subtle message of hope.

This book is part of the series, Quick Reads. Perhaps this format doesn't suit Alexander McCall Smith as small word limits are restrictive; nevertheless it was still apparent that he is a good storyteller.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

TV Review : Elementary

I like mysteries but it took me a little while before I started watching the TV series, Elementary. From the reviews I didn't think I would like this particular take on Sherlock yet when I started watching I was surprised to find myself warming to the character. Why was this? When he was so obnoxious and arrogant. As I thought about it there were three reasons:

1. Sherlock wanted justice for others and often he worked without being recompensed. He used his gift of observation and insight to discern the truth, bring criminals to justice and free the innocence.

2. He was surprisingly kind particularly to Watson but sometimes to complete strangers. One episode he was at a restaurant and deduced that a young man at another table was about to propose to his girlfriend. So he bought them a bottle of wine to celebrate.

3. When Watson pointed out his arrogance he doesn't try to excuse it or explain it away but acknowledges it. In one particular episode he tried to take credit for something Watson had done. When she confronted him about it, he paused, pondered for a moment and then said, "thank you." In expressing appreciation he was acknowledging her contribution and his own arrogance. Sometimes we think of confession as a big announcement of guilt when it can be as simple as saying thank you. Expressing gratitude is humbling because we are acknowledging our need. Confession can also be as simple as, "yes, you're right" or "I take your point" or simply the silence of not trying to justify ourselves.

These three things warmed my heart, seeking justice for others, kindness and humility. Then I realized that they also warm God's heart. "He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8).

1. God wants us to act justly so people are not oppressed and disadvantaged by our actions. God wants us to be part of the process that sets people free.

2. God wants us to act kindly towards others. The difficulties we experience remind us to show mercy towards others since we don't know what difficulties they may be experiencing.

3. God wants us to be humble. When God confronted David he admitted his sin with Beersheba without trying to excuse it. Likewise God wants us to be honest. He has already dealt with our sin but he requires our agreement. Not a long winded announcement of our guilt but a simple acknowledgement, an expression of gratitude for bringing it out into the open.

So I find the things that cause my heart to move towards someone are the same things that cause God's heart to be moved towards me.

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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Devotional Thought : Habakkuk 2:1

I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint. Habakkuk 2:1

Habakkuk asks God then waits in faith expecting God to give him an answer. Habakkuk is a great role model. Often we ask God than run around trying to fix the problem ourselves. We are not good at waiting because it seems that nothing is happening.

Yet when we view waiting from God's perspective much is happening. Faith is being expressed in the waiting process. We would not wait if we did not believe God was interested, involved and engaged in our lives. We would not wait unless we believed that God was capable of solving the problem. We would not wait if we did not believe God cared.

The act of waiting is an act of submitting to God's timetable which sends a message to the enemy of our souls. James 4:7 teaches us to "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4:7). Our waiting on God says we are standing firm in our belief that God will act. We are resisting the devil's temptation to be impatient and thus enforcing the victory we have over him.

Through waiting Habakkuk comes to realizes that ultimately God is Sovereign and more powerful that even the Babylonians, who are mere putty in God's hand. So Habakkuk is encouraged and strengthen. God can be trust to handle the situation.

Likewise through waiting we realize that God is Sovereign. We are encouraged and strengthen by the process. We can be at peace, knowing: "He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just" (Deuteronomy 32:4).

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Book Review : Full House

Full House by Maeve Binchy is part of the Quick Reads series. It is a short, entertaining story, although unrealistic at times. The story focuses on Dee, the mother of a family comprising her husband and three adult children who are all still living at home. It is not until her husband loses his job that Dee decides their domestic arrangements need to change. This is rather a shock to her children who have learnt over the years that their parents are happy to provide board and lodging free of charge, without them taking any responsibility for domestic chores.

While the context is completely believable, the solution to Dee's dilemma is a bit too convenient. She manages to completely change years of behaviour, as well as her husband's attitude, in a matter of weeks. Solutions conveniently materialize and people adapt surprisingly quickly to the new situation. The format of the book, being only 146 pages in large print, is inclined to encourage a speedy resolution.

Even so, Maeve Binchy is an excellent story teller and overall it was an enjoyable read. I like the Quick Reads series as stories are not slowed down by long winded descriptions or unnecessary detail.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

With Markus Zusak

I read an interview where Markus Zusak was discussing the film based on his book, The Book Thief. He said:

"As it is, people can make up their own minds about the film now, but I still don't wish I'd had more input. I feel like when you give someone a creative job, you can't say, 'Right, be creative, but do it how I want you to do it'. I don't think that heightens the chances of a good result." (Read more here)

I was rather surprised with his response because it was exactly opposite of Pamela Travers ' response as portrayed in the movie, Saving Mr. Banks which I wrote about here. Pamela Travers tried to have maximum input and curtail the creative instincts of the staff working on the Mary Poppins movie. Fortunately Walt Disney won out and we have a far better movie because he did.

There are times when we have to put our work in the hands of others, believe in their creative talents, allow them poetic licence and trust that a good result will be achieved in the end. Yet it remains a risk.

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Saturday, March 08, 2014

Devotional Thought : Habakkuk 1:3-4

Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted. Habakkuk 1:3-4

Likewise there is a lot of injustice in the world, today. I see poor people not paid fairly, refugees are denied justice and the greedy pervert justice. I see governments treating their citizens badly, decisions are based on expediency, and those without a voice are disadvantaged.

However in the book of Habakkuk I find two lessons. One is that Habakkuk didn't fix the problem. He went to God. Secondly God said he would fix the problem but not in the way Habakkuk wanted.

I cannot fix all the injustices I see but I can go to God. I am not called to fix every problem, meet every need or carry every burden. However I am called to fulfil the ministry God has given me and I am called to play my part even if my part seems small and insignificant – a few prayers, a donation, sign a petition, buy fair trade products. I can't do everything but I can do something and the little things are important.

Furthermore I can trust that God will fix injustice on his terms, according to his timetable and not mine. God told Habakkuk that he was going to use the Babylonians to discipline his people. This seems rather strange as the Babylonians were more wicked than the Israelites. Nevertheless God involved a pagan nation because he had a long term plan in mind. Often we look for quick fixes whereas God has the eternal in mind.

God loves justice and will bring it about in his time.

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Thursday, March 06, 2014

Blog Tour : Falling for the Farmer

This month's fiction blog tour is for: Falling for the Farmer 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 March 2014


is introducing


Heartsong Presents


About the Book:

KATE LAWSON IS A RUNAWAY BRIDE

And she’s incredibly grateful when Jack Bradley offers her a job on his apple farm. Working side by side in the orchards with her best friend’s brother seems like the perfect way to get over her disastrous engagement. Until Kate finds herself falling hard for the handsome farmer.

Jack Bradley knows city-girl Kate isn’t here to stay. Yet suddenly he’s imagining a life with her in the country. When Kate considers going back to the city, can Jack find a way to show her that her real home is here on the farm, by his side?


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 group blog. http://internationalchristianfictionwriters.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, will be a February 2014 release, 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, March 04, 2014

Book Review : Falling for the Farmer

This book 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.

Falling for the farmer is a Harlequin Love Inspired novel by debut author 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."

Falling for the farmer is an enjoyable story. It tells of the relationship that develops between Sydney-sider Kate and her best friend's brother Jack, an orchardist. It is an unlikely romance since both have been scarred by past failures in relationships and this one also seems destined for disappointment, unless they can both adjust their perspectives.

I enjoyed the subtle inclusion of Christian thought, without it being a major focus. I also liked the realism of the adversities that the couple had to face – the temptation of marrying for money, the pressure from families, the responsibility to learn from our mistakes and allow others to learn from theirs. Plus I really enjoyed the setting as I am very familiar with the area.

Overall an entertaining read.

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

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Saturday, March 01, 2014

Devotional Thought : Amos 5:21

I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. Amos 5:21

We can't assume our festivals and assemblies are a blessing to God. So often when we are planning such events we think that our preferences are the same as God's. We think the songs we like, the style of meeting we prefer, the speakers we enjoy are the ones that will bless God. However God is looking beyond the agenda to our heart attitude. What is our motivation? Are we simply choosing our favourites or do we truly desire to please God?

Our motivation is not something we often stop to think about. Why are we holding this meeting? What are we hoping to achieve? Who is our audience? The activity may have began out of a desire to honour God but now we have been doing it for so long that we have forgotten its purpose, stopped evaluating its effectiveness and just go through the motions. Sometimes the fear of change, the fear of displeasing our predecessors or the fear of looking into our own hearts stops us from challenging the status quo.

In Amos' day they could hardly wait for the spiritual activities to end so they could return to what was really important to them – selling their produce. "When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?" (Amos 8:5).

These people went through the motions of participating but their hearts weren't in it. They couldn't wait for them to end so they could get back to the things that were important to them. No wonder God hated their meetings. They were just an empty performance.

May our spiritual gatherings be times when we truly seek to connect with God.

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