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.

Narelle is a co-founder with Jenny Blake of the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance (ACRBA).

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.

Twitter: @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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