Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas

This will be my last post for 2015 as I will be taking next week off from blogging and be back on 5th January.

I'd like to wish everyone who passes by here a happy Christmas and hope to see you early in the new year.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

On being creative part 2

Earlier this month I quoted John Cleese in his autobiography, So Anyway talking about research which had shown that constant relocation in childhood is often associated with creativity. Cleese writes: "your mind becomes more flexible and capable of combining thoughts and ideas in new and fresh ways".

In a similar vein, I came across this article written a couple of years ago by Neil Gaiman where he talks about the importance of reading and how imagination encourages innovation.
I was in China in 2007, at the first party-approved science fiction and fantasy convention in Chinese history. And at one point I took a top official aside and asked him Why? SF had been disapproved of for a long time. What had changed?

It's simple, he told me. The Chinese were brilliant at making things if other people brought them the plans. But they did not innovate and they did not invent. They did not imagine. So they sent a delegation to the US, to Apple, to Microsoft, to Google, and they asked the people there who were inventing the future about themselves. And they found that all of them had read science fiction when they were boys or girls.

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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Devotional Thought : 1 Samuel 13:19

Not a blacksmith could be found in the whole land of Israel, because the Philistines had said, "Otherwise the Hebrews will make swords or spears!" 1 Samuel 13:19

In ancient cultures it was common practice, when oppressing an enemy, to deprive them of the means to make weaponry. We see this in later times when the Babylonians made sure they captured all the skilled workers and artisans so the remaining Israelites couldn't rearm themselves (2 Kings 24:14).

However it is a little strange after Samuel's success in subduing the Philistines at Mizpah (7:13), that the Israelites didn't start training blacksmiths and making iron implements especially as they were using them for farming (v. 20-21). Though it is not clear whether they originally made these implements or traded for them.

Did the Israelites lack skill or motivation to make iron tools? While it is hard to say it certainly clear that the Philistines were more skilled in the technique and were able to restrict Israel's production of weaponry.

Yet this didn't stop God's enabling, giving Saul success over the Amorites (11:11) or Samuel's victory over the Philistines. There were other weapons available to them – bows and arrows, clubs, slings. Yet what they most needed was God's intervention (7:10).

In earlier times Deborah successful routed the Canaanites and their nine hundred chariots fitted with iron (Judges 4:3) without even a spear or shield (5:8). God sent a thunderstorm, so perhaps the chariots were bogged (Judges 5:4)!

Regardless of how poorly resourced we are God is still able to give us victory. This doesn't excuse apathy. We need to prepare as best we can for the tasks God calls us to. The Israelites still needed blacksmiths even if just for farming, yet it reminds us that we are not dependent on human resources.

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Book Review : Echoes in the Valley

Echoes in the Valley by Meredith Resce is set in Australia during the Great Depression. It is the story of the unlikely relationship between Alex and Grace who have both been hurt in previous relationships and are committed to the single life. Yet dire circumstances bring them together and makes them confront their histories. The story is a believable account of people who make mistakes and must live with the consequences. It is part of the Green Valley series, but I have not read the others, apart from a couple of comments about Grace's brother's past, I didn't notice.

Meredith has created a situation that portrays the attitudes of the church and the public from this time period. Through the story we see how rash decisions can have long term consequences, how forgiveness is a difficult process and how judgmental attitudes can hamper compassion.

About half way through I was wondering how the situation was ever going to be happily resolved yet Meredith does so without being convenient. She writes with keen insight into the human condition making this an engaging narrative.

It is easy to think that the difficulties in this book wouldn't happen today. Yet many of the attitudes still exist. People still make rash decisions without proper regard of the consequences; forgiveness is still a difficult process; and judgmental attitudes still exist in the church as well as in the community. The book teaches us the need for compassion.

A great read.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

God doesn't keep attendance records

Sometimes you hear the most surprising insights in the least expected places. This line is spoken by the character Amy Farrah Fowler in the Big Bang Theory after Sheldon has told her that his mother expects him to go to church once a year.

"I don't object to the concept of a deity, but I'm baffled by the notion of one that take attendance."

Amy makes a good point, after all God doesn't keep church attendance records and we baffle those outside the church when we give the impression he does. God is far more interested in people's character than in their outward observance to rituals. Jesus made this perfect clear in his dealings with the Pharisees (Matthew 23).

Many persist with the notion that we can impress God with our traditions and ceremonies rather than with a heart attitude that seeks God.

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Saturday, December 12, 2015

Devotional Thought : 1 Samuel 10:26

Saul also went to his home in Gibeah, accompanied by valiant men whose hearts God had touched. 1 Samuel 10:26

God went to extraordinary lengthens to provide Saul with all the resources he needed to be an excellence king. First there was the prophetic word from Samuel, "The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person" (v. 6) which accompanied numerous signs (vs. 2-5).

Then there was the confirmation by lot (v. 21) and the public acceptance (v. 24). In the above verse we see that God supported Saul with valiant men who would provide fellowship for Saul. God knows leadership is a lonely business.

Saul's kingship starts well with a successful routing of the Ammonites in chapter 11 and Saul's acknowledgment of the Lord, "… for this day the Lord has rescued Israel" (11:13).

But there is never any reaction from Saul regarding his kingly appointment – no shock, no surprise, no prayer. Such a significant privilege since Saul was the first king of Israel but there is no response to God – no gratitude, no commitment to God's commands, no amazement that God chose him. Whereas David was keenly aware of all God had provided for him (2 Samuel 7:18-29).

How easy it is to take God's provision for granted and how dangerous it becomes when we do. Saul became presumptuous (1 Samuel 13:9) which ultimately lead to his downfall.

God has provided communion (the Lord's Supper/the Eucharist) as a regular opportunity for us to remember all God has done for us. As we partake in eating and drinking, we remember that our forgiveness, our freedom from sin, our renewal of relationship, cost God dearly – his only son.

Let's never take his provision for granted.

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Book Review : Star! Stable! Saviour!

This book is currently being featured on the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance. Information about the author and more details about the book can be found here.

Star! Stable! Saviour! : the Christmas story in S by Cameron Semmens is a fun look at the Christmas story with lots of alliteration of the letter S. Cameron Semmens has done a great job of telling the Christmas story in a fresh and interesting way. Cameron's book focuses on the shepherds and the wise men visiting the stable (Strictly speaking the wise men didn't come to the stable nevertheless they are an important part of the events surrounding Jesus' birth).

Through the story Cameron conveys the unexpectedness and wonder of a Saviour being born in a stable. The book lends itself to being read over and over as children will enjoy the sound of the story as well as the message.

Rod Allen has done a great job of creating illustrations to fit the message and style of the book.

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

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Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Blog Tour : Star! Stable! Saviour!

This blog tour is for the children's book: Star! Stable! Saviour! by Cameron Semmens. This book is part of a blog tour organized by Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance

My book review is here.

6 – 10 December 2015

is introducing

(Wombat Books, 1 December 2015)


Cameron Semmens

About the Book:
"Forget the kids! It was me who loved this in our house. OK the kids did too!" – Sally Smith,

The traditional Christmas story has been told and re-told for nearly two thousand years – but never quite like this. Poet Cameron Semmens’s quirky and alliterated re-telling of it in Star! Stable! Savior! brings a totally fresh perspective on the ancient Christmas story.

Originally published in 2007 under the title The Story of The Star, The Stable and The Saviour, the book sold out after only a few years. Now it’s back with a fresh, punchy new title.

About the Author: Cameron Semmens is a poet, entertainer and poetry educator with 15 books to his name. He makes his living through words: performing, running workshops and book design. He lives in the Dandenong Rangers with his wife and two children.

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Saturday, December 05, 2015

Devotional Thought : 1 Samuel 4:18

When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell backward off his chair by the side of the gate. His neck was broken and he died, for he was an old man, and he was heavy. He had led Israel forty years. 1 Samuel 4:18

In the Message we read, "Eli was an old man, and very fat." The reason Eli was fat is found in the Lord's words in 1 Samuel 2:29: "Why do you honor your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel?" Eli's sons were eating far more of the sacrifice than they were entitled to, as they were eating the meat before the fat was burnt away (v. 13-16). It seems Eli shared in this as well.

Eli was more interested in himself than honouring the Lord. His sons blasphemed God, and he failed to restrain them (3:13). In Eli's role as a priest his weight gain must have made it obvious that he was a glutton. Actions speak louder than words.

God didn't act immediately but gave Eli and his sons time to repent but they mistook God's patience for indulgence. God sent a prophet to warn them (2:27-36) but the punishments didn't seem real. They expected life to continue as it had always done.

Likewise today many have heard God's word but it doesn't seem real to them. Even as Christians, we are more influenced by our senses – what we see, hear, smell, taste and touch as theses seems more enduring than an invisible kingdom in an unspecified time frame.

Paul would exhort us to: "…fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:18).

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Thursday, December 03, 2015

Book Review : Ehvah After

Ehvah After is an unlikely romance between an American teen pop star who is past her use-by date and an Australian body guard. Ehvah and David meet in an idyllic location but under hazardous circumstances. Although from two completely different backgrounds, it turns out they have more in common than would be expected. It's a bumpy journey as Ehvah and David navigate their pasts, their ambitions and their differences to find common ground.

Rose Dee creates surprising but believable contexts for her characters and therefore the obstacles they confronted are all the more interesting. Some of the issues raised in this book are post-traumatic stress, early childhood losses, and the inadequacy of wealth to solve problems. These are common issues in today's society.

I enjoy Rose's books because they are realistic portrayals of ordinary flawed people who make mistakes and have to live with the consequences. Also there is always more than just a romance happening and this one contains a good deal of mystery and drama. I like Rose's Australian settings and encounters with the wildlife which adds appeal to the story.

Ehvah After has more spiritual content than Rose's other books and this develops slowly through the book. This content explores the relevancy of faith to everyday life making it relatable and integral to the story.

Ehvah After is a good read – engaging and original.

With thanks to Rose for providing a free book for review.

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Tuesday, December 01, 2015

On Being Creative

My husband is reading John Cleese's autobiography, So Anyway. He suggested I read these couple of paragraphs which I found very interesting. Particularly because we moved our children a lot in their childhoods and you do wondering about the long term impact – but, perhaps it's not all bad.

Research has shown that constant relocation in childhood is often associated with creativity. It seems that the creative impulse is sparked by the need to reconcile contrasting views of the world. If you move home, you start living a slightly different life, so you compare it with your previous life, note the divergences and the similarities, see what you like better and what you miss, and as you do so, your mind becomes more flexible and capable of combining thoughts and ideas in new and fresh ways. There's also another way creativity can develop: if important people in your life, especially parents, have different ways of viewing the world, you find yourself trying to understand what they have in common, and how they contrast, in an attempt to make sense of their conflicting views. On the other hand, if your parents have a harmonious relationship and you grow up in one place where people share the same attitudes as those around them, you are unlikely to be innovative, or even to want to be.

So, creatively, I was doubly blessed: constant relocation and parental disharmony. Add to these two gifts the well-established fact that many of the world's greatest geniuses, both artistic and scientific, have been the product of serious maternal deprivation, and I am forced to the conclusion that if only my mother had been just a little more emotionally inadequate, I could have been HUGE. (So Anyway by John Cleese Pg. 17).

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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Devotional Thought : Isaiah 57:1-2

The righteous perish, and no one takes it to heart; the devout are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death. Isaiah 57:1-2

God's perspective on death is vastly different to ours. "The devout are taken away…to be spared...evil." Sometimes Christians die early to be spared and they have peace, whereas there is no peace for the wicked (v.21).

This is not something that we like to think about that God would deliberately take a believer in death to spare them the evil of this world. Particularly if it is a young person. It seems so tragic that they haven't had the chance to fulfil their potential. A long life is usually regarded as a blessing from God.

The other confusing thing is that some people grow up in appalling and abusive circumstances and aren't spared the evil of the situation. How do we reconcile these two differing responds from God?

We don't have the benefit of being able to see the future as God does. We don't know the particular evil or its consequences that God is protecting someone from. Our perspective is incomplete. Yet the verse offers hope. God understands whatever we are going through and will provide a way through or a way out. Death is not the end and we have the assurance of peace in the world to come. This isn't an excuse to escape life's difficulties but rather an opportunity to trust God's Sovereignty.

There are times when it is difficult to understand God's ways. However if we seek to know God's character and fully appreciate his love and goodness, we will find he is worthy of our trust.

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Quote from Tim Keller's book, Preaching

I'm currently reading Preaching by Timothy Keller and found this insightful:

"What the heart most wants the mind finds reasonable, the emotions find valuable, and the will finds doable" (pg. 159).

It reminds me of a conversation in Lauren Winner's book, Still. Lauren was talking to a married female friend who told her she had lunch with a male acquaintance while her husband was out of town on business. They shared a common interest in literature. She asked Lauren, "Is this how affairs start?"

Lauren had several conversations with this friend but couldn't convince her to break off the relationship. In due course her friend had an affair with this man that was short-lived and extremely damaging to all parties.

This woman's heart wanted the relationship so her mind found it reasonable, her emotions found it valuable, and her will found it doable, but it ended in disaster.

Two verses come to mind:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9 KJV).

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it (Proverbs 4:23).

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Grace in the Old Testament

When we read Leviticus 24:20: "…eye for eye, tooth for tooth." We don't realise this as a statement of grace. In the culture it was written, it was customary for people to retaliate tenfold. Retaliating only once showed grace.

This is just one of many examples of God’s grace in the Old Testament. Often we don't see God's grace because we come to the text with our cultural perspective and preconceived ideas. This leads people to being disturbed by the violence in the Old Testament, yet they often overlook the Bible's own explanation. It was because of the wickedness of the people in Canaan that God authorized Joshua to dispossess these nations. This was a one-off. This incident was an exception and not God's usually way of dealing with people. Jonah is a good example of this.

Later God was to dispossess his own people because of their wickedness. God doesn't play favourites. These incidents remind us that God, while being gracious and compassionate, is also our Judge.

"After the Lord your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, 'The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.' No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is going to drive them out before you. It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations" (Deuteronomy 9:4-5).

Currently we live in a time of grace. We live under the New Testament—the New Covenant. When we read the Old Testament we need to bear this in mind. One day Jesus will come to bring justice to the earth then, we will realise just how patience and gracious he has been with his creation.

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Saturday, November 21, 2015

Devotional Thought : Isaiah 53:10

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. Isaiah 53:10

We struggle with passages that tell us God sends suffering to innocent people. It messes with our concept of a compassionate God. Personally I find it helps if I separate those things which God initiates and those things he allows.

However Jewish thinking doesn't make this distinction. They saw God as Sovereign and therefore responsible for everything that happens. Everything comes from his hand. Theologically they have no problem with God sending suffering.

Still it helps me to see suffering as the effects of living in a broken world and while God could stop all forms of suffering he allows it to continue because he can see a greater good coming from it. Suffering teaches us the enormous damage sin has caused, not only to us personally but to God and his creation. It makes us realise the depth of depravity people sink to without God, and that even creation is groaning (Romans 8:22).

In this verse from Isaiah we see that Christ's suffering as an offering for sin, will bring forgiveness and freedom from sin. It was an enormous price to pay – Jesus was crushed for our iniquities – but the benefits continue to flow through generation after generation. One day, because of Jesus' sacrificial death, we will see the restoration of all God intended and our gratitude will be overwhelming.

While suffering is hard to understand and difficult to deal with, we have hope because the Cross promises us that God hasn't forsaken us and that he has a plan to stop suffering.

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Book Review : The Skeleton Diaries

The Skeleton Diaries : an inspiring true story of how hope emerged from complete darkness by Rachael Stevens is compiled from diaries that Rachael kept after she was diagnosed with Anorexia. The book focuses on the three month period when her weight was at its lowest and most dangerous. Rachael has edited and added additional insights to the original diary entries.

I found this to be a remarkable book. Early in the book Rachael asks the question: how can you fight a monster when you don't even know what it looks like? Yet by the end of the book Rachael has painted a very clear picture of what the monster, called Anorexia, looks like. It's a different picture to the one I expected. Mostly it is not about food but about three strong negative emotions fear, anxiety and anger. To overcome these Rachael survives by maintaining control in the only area where she feels like she has choices – eating.

It was disappointing to read some of the reactions to her condition from health professionals. It seems even in 2007 there was little understanding of this condition. I hope things have improved since then.

I was hoping the book would also contain diary entries from her recovery. However that was a long journey which was made up of a million small daily decisions, none of which were significant in themselves. The seeds of her recovery are found in the latter stage of her stay in hospital and Rachael has outlined this further in the chapter, Steps to Recovery.

This book would benefit anyone who knows someone suffering from Anorexia. It provides important insights into the tortured mind of someone with this condition.

An inspiring read.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015


As Christians, we have a responsibility to alleviate suffering especially amongst our own Christian brothers and sisters, who are in need.

In the story Jesus told about the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:40 KJ), one word is consistently overlooked: brethren. Jesus only calls his own children, brethren. It isn’t a word he uses with unbelievers. So Jesus is addressing believers, telling us to care for each other. This story is often used to encourage us to support the unknown poor and needy overseas. While it isn’t wrong to use this story in a wider context, in its original setting it’s about helping and supporting the Christians we know and fellowship with.

For some reason I’m often a lot more comfortable helping people I don’t know, people who live a long way away that I will never know. I can send money or goods and feel better because I’ve done something for someone else, yet I’ve not engaged emotionally with these people.

Surprisingly this was also a problem for Pollyanna, the much-loved-storybook character, who always looked for something to be glad about, whatever the situation. Pollyanna had a difficult life even prior to the death of her parents. Her father had been a missionary and relied on the generosity of churches sending missionary barrels to them. Following the death of her father, Pollyanna went to live with her wealthy aunt.

In the course of time she became aware of the plight of an orphan boy who lived in the same town, so she decided to tell the "Ladies Aiders" (a group of Christian women from her church). Pollyanna knew from personal experience how willing these Christian women were to help orphans who lived elsewhere and believed they would help this boy, too. To her great disappointment and confusion they were not willing to help.

It makes me wonder what need is on my door step that I consistently overlook?

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Saturday, November 14, 2015

Devotional Thought : Isaiah 51:3

The Lord will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing. Isaiah 51:3

Ever since I visited Israel I love prophecies which speak about the deserts and wastelands being transformed. Parts of Israel are so desolate, I long to see them as God intends. These 'fertility' prophecies seem to be everywhere in the prophetic and poetry of the Old Testament.

In modern Israel (and even in ancient times) the authorities 'solved' the problem of lack of water through amazing engineering feats. They can store huge amounts of water and divert water sources to ensure adequate water for crops and homes.

Yet God longs to bless his people with rain that would turn the wastelands into gardens. This would mean persistent and long term changes to rain patterns. So often we settle for less than God wants to give us.

Generally we are reluctant receivers. Regardless of what we are trusting God for, whether it is rain, or health, or finances, we find it difficult. We have more confidence in man-made solutions which provide short term relief.

When Jesus fed the 5000 and later the 4000, he didn't provide just enough to go around. Both times there was basketfuls left over (Mark 8:19-20). When Jesus turned the water in wine, he didn't provide just enough to save the host's embarrassment. There was an abundance which far exceeded the demand (John 2:1-12).

God doesn't want to barely meet our needs. He wants to provide more than we can handle. But it requires that we come to him without an agenda, trust his ways and leave the results to him.

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Book Reflection : Pilgrimage

Pilgrimage : my journey to a deeper faith in the land where Jesus walked, is an autobiographic account of Lynn Austin's trip to Israel. I first read this book a year ago and wrote a book review here. I wanted to read it again on my return from Israel because not only did I visit many of the same sites – which is not surprising but I also visited them in the same order. Perhaps this is also not surprising as it is quite a small country and geographically it makes sense to travel from south to north. It has taken me a while to find the time to reread it as it is now nearly a year since I went to Israel.

I enjoyed the book a lot more the second time around because I could now visualize where Lynn was and relate to her feelings. I was a bit more sympathetic to her situation. All her children moved away in a short space of time and in the last couple of months my own son and his family have moved much further away from me. Though I still sensed something else was going on in Lynn's life.

She shares many, many lessons that she learnt in her travels which she then relates to her own spiritual journey. I found this a bit overwhelming. Maybe I'm a bit slow but spiritual lessons take me awhile to digest and apply to my life.

I did find the book more interesting the second time around but I think my hesitation with this book comes simply from the fact that Lynn and I live in different worlds. I don't know Lynn's background but I sense she has grown up in or lives in a Christian culture that I am unfamiliar with.

Nevertheless a good read.

I have now finished reviewing all my "Israel" books and will returning to my more usual books.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Are we making people hungry for God?

Sometimes we assume our job is to convince people there is a God. Yet statistically only about 5% of the world's population are committed atheists. Most simply doubt they have any need of God.

In John 6:35 Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." This assures us of the availability of sustenance for our souls. But the real danger is we will not admit our spiritual hunger. The devil, who is the father of lies, convinces people they are not hungry. He will tell them how self-sufficient they are and convince them they have no need of God.

Sometimes churches pour an enormous amount of time and effort into running particular programs or events. While these events may be helpful in creating relationships with newcomers, the important thing is that we live out our Christian lives. As we grow up into Christ and let his life permeate ours, his Kingdom will radiate from our lives and be obvious to those we rub shoulders with every day.

If we build relationships with those people God places around us we will gain credibility and have opportunities to speak into their lives.

Jesus' promise is, "Whoever comes to me will never go hungry."

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Saturday, November 07, 2015

Devotional Thought : Isaiah 49:4

But I said, "I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing at all. Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand, and my reward is with my God." Isaiah 49:4

Even Jesus' ministry would appear to be unsuccessful (John 1:11). He lived and died in a remote part of the Roman Empire. He gathered around him only a small group of men and women who were not well educated or influential. Yet later the Jews would accused them of turning the world upside down (Acts 17:6 AMP).

At the time of Jesus' death no one would have suspected the enormous social change that his life would initiate. Hospitals, orphanages, schools, universities would be built in his name. Virtues like humility and the worth of every person would develop. Jesus' life changed the behaviours that society valued.

This gives us great hope during those times when our own ministry seems futile. We faithfully persist in a ministry that God has called us to but there is little growth and we wonder the value of continuing. At such times we can remind ourselves of the mustard seed (Matthew 13:31-32) and the ant, who through doing a little often achieves a great deal (Psalm 6:6-8). As well as remembering the life of Jesus' himself.

Furthermore we have God promise that he is faithful and nothing in God is wasted (1 Corinthians 15:58). God is the Rewarder of those who seek him and his ways (Hebrews 11:6). God hasn't call us to a life that is completely altruistic rather we are motivated by a future hope.

With the benefit of hindsight, we know Jesus accomplished incredible spiritual and social change. As we entrust our lives to God, we believe he will use our lives to eternally impact others.

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Thursday, November 05, 2015

Book Review : Women at the time of the Bible

Women at the time of the Bible by Miriam Feinberg Vamosh seeks to cover every aspect of a woman's life in Bible times. This is a difficult undertaking as it covers a long period of time. The Bible itself only gives us glimpses of women's roles since the Bible's purpose is not to give us a social history.

Miriam Feinberg Vamosh gives us insights into what life might have been like for women. She begins with home life and the work women did around the home, not just to provide food and raise children, but also to make clothing. Marriage and childbirth customs, women's roles in worship and music, their access (or lack of it) to education and leadership roles are all discussed. There seems to be such a wide variation due to the expanse of time that is covered in the book, plus the variation depending on the geographical location makes it hard to form any solid conclusions. Some women seemed to have a lot of freedom to pursue their own interests while others had very little.

The book is interspersed with character summaries of particular Biblical women with more information about their life and times. Towards the end of the book there is a circular list of all the women mentioned in the Bible and it's a surprise to see how long this list is.

An interesting read with some helpful photos.

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Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Blog Tour : Intertwined

This blog tour is for the novel: Intertwined by Jennifer Slattery. This book is part of a blog tour organized by Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance

2 - 6 November

is introducing

New Hope Publishers, September 2015


Jennifer Slattery

About the Book:
Abandoned by her husband, an organ procurement coordinator fighting to keep her job and her sanity encounters an old flame facing an unthinkable tragedy.

For Tammy Kuhn, being an organ procurement coordinator is more than a job. It’s a ministry. But when her husband of sixteen years leaves her for another woman, struggles with childcare, her absentee ex-husband, and an altercation with a doctor threaten her job. Embittered and overwhelmed, she fights to maintain her sanity when a late night encounter with an old flame stirs emotions long since buried but the ICU is no place for romance.

About the Author:
Jennifer Slattery writes missional romance novels for New Hope Publishers. Her debut, "Beyond I Do", releases in August. She also writes Christian Living articles for and devotions for her personal blog, JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud; Internet Cafe Devotions; and Takin' it to the Streets', a ministry serving Omaha Metro's working poor and homeless.

When she's not writing, she enjoys reading, hanging out at the mall with her teenage daughter, enjoying her real-life hero husband, or serving in her church or community.

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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Devotional Thought : Isaiah 45:15

Truly you are a God who has been hiding himself, the God and Savior of Israel. Isaiah 45:15

It would be easy for God to perform amazing miracles, write his name on the clouds or demonstrate his greatness in some way. Yet God chooses to restrain himself so that he appears to be hiding from us.

While God does not draw attention to himself he leaves enough clues for the genuine seeker. He hides so that he can be found by those who are prepared to consider the evidence – creation, his mighty acts on behalf of Israel, other historical and archaeological evidence, personal testimonies and inner conviction. None of these will convince a casual onlooker but those who are genuinely interested in investigating Christian faith will find that God provides enough indications to warrant trust in him.

Hebrews 11:6 tells us, "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." God is looking for those with faith. If his presence in the world was obvious we wouldn't need faith.

God's restraint in not displaying his greatness in ways that are obvious to us also tells us something about the character of God. He shows humility when he has nothing to be humble about. He does not push himself forward or highlight his work in the world. He is not focussed on himself but on the people he loves. He appears to be "hiding himself" to arouse our curiosity so that we will desire a relationship with him.

God is not found by the casual seeker but by those who earnestly seek him. "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13).

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Book Review : Where Jesus Walked

Where Jesus Walked by Ken Duncan is a photographic journey through the life of Jesus beginning with Mary in Nazareth and ending with Jesus' ascension. The problem with a book like this is so much has changed in Israel in the last 2,000 years and it's not so much the wars and conflicts but the tourism that has altered many sacred sites. Another problem is the historical accuracy of the location of sites and the many traditions that have developed over time.

Nevertheless Ken Duncan has produced a book of beautiful photos and interesting text. Duncan has collected quotes and material from multiple sources to provide comments alongside his photographs. I enjoyed the variety and the depth of wisdom in these. Occasionally there was some overlap with this approach but overall I found it enlightening.

Probably the images I enjoyed the least were those taken in the very ornate churches which now stand on some of the sites. It is such a divergence from the life Jesus led while on earth. The images I enjoyed the most were the scenery and those closest to the reality of Jesus' life.

On the whole a lovely and informative book.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

God sings

Our world seems saturated with love stories, romantic movies and songs, yet more are constantly being churned out. The demand seems insatiable. Artists, songwriters, poets, and writers continually try to capture the sense of loving or being loved, pursuing or being pursued, or desiring or being desired.

Again and again those who are not Christians are expressing a desire to be loved in the way only God can. Some time ago there were a couple of songs on the airwaves, Thank You for Loving Me at My Worst and Hey Leonardo, She Likes Me for Me. These songs express the sort of love God has for us. God loves us at our worst, and he loves and accepts us as we are.

Songwriters have expressed the desire and the experience of their heart to love and be loved, but when they don’t know God, they look for that need to be met by another person. For some this seems to work, at least for a time, but unfortunately people let us down. Some go from relationship to relationship looking for what only God can give them. As Christians we are sometimes no better, expecting people to give us the love and acceptance that only God can give.

Let's listen to the love song God sings over us and find in him the love and acceptance we crave:

"The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing" (Zephaniah 3:17).

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Saturday, October 24, 2015

Christian Writers' Conference

This weekend I'm at the annual Christian Writers' Conference which is being held in Bacchus Marsh near Melbourne.

There are 24 workshops being run covering all aspects of the writing life: writing skills, marketing, publishing, creativity, inspirational, spiritual, even ergonomics and covering all genres non-fiction, fiction, children and young adult.

Next year the conference will be held in Sydney from 28-30 October.

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Book Review : Three Years with Jesus

Three Years with Jesus : a pictorial journey through the ministry of Christ by Charles Swindoll is a devotional styled book where each thought is commenced with a verse. Charles Swindoll then comments adding historical and spiritual insights. With each thought there is two or three photographs of the location or an image that is connected to the reading.

One of the most helpful things about this book is the way Swindoll has placed the material in chronological order of Jesus' ministry. It creates a fascinating overview of Jesus' life from his early popularity to his growing conflict with the Pharisees. This places the well-known incidents in Jesus' life in their proper context. It is something we often miss when we read the gospels or listen to sermons. To do this effectively the gospels must be studied simultaneously which Swindoll has done, using readings from the different gospels to achieve this order.

The other bonus is the photographs and images. They are beautiful and well placed throughout the book. For people who have actually been to Israel they are a great reminder.

There are also some group discussions questions at the back of the book. It would be a worthwhile book to work through as a group since it gives a fresh perspective on Jesus' life.

Overall a lovely book.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Think about whatever is true, noble, good…

Paul encouraged his readers to think about those things, which are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).

This is the opposite of thinking about those things which upset us and cause us to complain and grumble. However to do this we first must be aware of our thoughts. What do we think about all day? To find enjoyment and contentment in all our circumstances (Philippians 4:11), we will have to guard against filling our minds with those things we think we're lacking or those things we think we need to make us content. I have come to the conclusion that anything I don’t currently have is obviously unnecessary to my contentment. If it were, God would have already provided me with it.

Let's focus on the blessings we already have. Personally, I am great blessed. Physically, I have shelter, food and clean water; not everyone does. Emotionally, I have a husband and children, who love me and care about me; not everyone has that support. Mentally, I’m stimulated by books and the articles I read; not everyone has this opportunity. Spiritually, I have a God who loves me so much that he gave his son to die for me, and even if he does nothing more for me in this life, that is enough for me to be forever grateful.

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Saturday, October 17, 2015

Devotional Thought : Isaiah 44:28

…who says of Cyrus, 'He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, "Let it be rebuilt," and of the temple, "Let its foundations be laid."' Isaiah 44:28

God used a pagan king, Cyrus to rebuild Jerusalem and temple. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, when Cyrus was informed of this prophesy he desired to fulfil it. It was unprecedented and unexpected. What king frees people who have been captured and sends them back to rebuild their city? Most kings would worry about them becoming a future threat.

Isaiah was prophesying long before these people were taken into captivity in Babylon in fact this prophesy was given about 190 years before it happened. Some commentators struggle with the idea of predictive prophesy and therefore suggest it must have been written after it happened.

However this would make little sense. In Isaiah 41 God challenged the idols, "Tell us, you idols, what is going to happen" (v.22) because they were not able to, God predicts the future. The fulfilment only benefitted those who were alive when Cyrus came to power but perhaps this was God's purpose.

Following the exile, God wanted his people to return to their land. Reading this prophesy and living during its fulfilment would have been a huge encouragement to return and rebuilt Jerusalem and the temple. Yet when the decree came allowing the Jews to return, only a very small percentage of the people actually did. Some records suggest less than 5%. Most had become comfortable living in Babylon.

Nevertheless this prophesy is still a great encouragement. There are many unfilled prophesies in Isaiah and elsewhere. When we consider how amazing it is that God can predicted the future so far in advance with such accuracy it gives us hope.

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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Book Review : The Holy Land

Prior to going to Israel last November and whilst there, I bought several books about the country and its history. Over the next month I plan to review these books starting with, The Holy Land : the Land of Jesus.

It is not stated who wrote, The Holy Land so perhaps there were several authors. The text is a brief overview of the towns and important historical places in Israel but the real highlight is the photographs which are abundant and well chosen. They add realism to the text. The photographs alone are worth the purchase price of the book.

The book seems to cover every site in Israel and gives the historical importance of the place whether that is Biblical history or archaeological history or more recent history. A downside of the book is that it includes quite a bit of material based on tradition with little regard to its historical accuracy.

The book starts in Nazareth and the surrounding area but there doesn't seem to be any chronological or alphabetical arrangement of the material which is a little disconcerting. Fortunately there is an index at the end. There is also a large map of modern Israel with a satellite map on the back.

I found the book a good reminder of my visit as the photographs are indeed wonderful. The book makes me realize there were a lot of sites I didn't see. It also makes me realize there is a lot of history crammed into a small geographical area.

The book is intended more for tourists than for serious students.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Nothing in God is wasted

I love the story David Seamands tells in his book, Living With Your Dreams, about an apparently wasted day. When he was a missionary in India, Seamands was scheduled to attend a meeting in another town and arose early to catch the train. Not long into the journey the train was unable to continue due to problems with the tracks. There was no other transport. He was unable to continue his journey and unable to return home until the next day. He was left to spend the whole day at a remote train station with nothing to do.

There was however, a small bookstore with only one book written in English, which he bought and read. It was a religious book, but not Christian, and not a book he would normally read. But what else was there to do? Seamands thought this was a completely wasted day.

Ten years later, when Seamands was back home and pastoring a church, a young man came to see him. He was having some intellectual difficulties with the Christian faith, but seemed reluctant to share them. Abruptly he asked Seamands if he had read a particular book. It was the book Seamands had read on the remote Indian train station. The conversation that followed, and the relationship that developed deeply impacted this young man, who grew to have a solid Christian faith.

Remember that nothing in God is wasted. A wasted day may turn out to be a most significant day in terms of eternity.

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Saturday, October 10, 2015

Devotional Thought : Isaiah 40:29-31

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:29-31

Often we want to be those who "soar on wings like eagles" or at least "run and not grow weary" yet generally these are special times in our lives, the mountain top experiences, the one-offs. As Constable writes in his commentary "…exceptional flying…occasional running do not require, as does the constant walking, an ever-flowing stream of grace."

What we most need is an ever-flowing stream of grace so we can consistently and cheerfully walk in God's ways. By comparison to flying and running, walking seems a bit dull. Yet God highly values persistence and wants to produce "patient endurance" in our lives (2 Thessalonians 3:5, 2 Peter 1:6 NLT).

In order to walk without fainting we must hope or wait in the Lord. Waiting involves the belief that God will enable and empower us to keep going regardless of the circumstances. Waiting upon the Lord implies a dependence on him and a willingness to let him decide the timing.

When we wait for a bus. We wait expectantly, looking for the bus to come. We wait believing that though it may not come when we think it should, it will come. Unlike waiting for a bus, we are not wasting time when we wait in faith, in fact, our strength is renewed and our faith grows.

Let's be expectant, eagerly looking for God to make his presence felt in our lives, even when he takes longer than we would like.

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Thursday, October 08, 2015

Book Review : Same

This book is currently being featured on the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance. Information about the author and more details about the book can be found here.

Same by Katrina Roe is a children's picture book with a great concept. My little granddaughter has just learnt the notion of things being the same so this will be a great book for her.

Same is story of Ivy whose Uncle Charlie is in a wheelchair. Ivy is afraid of him as he seems so different however Ivy discovers they do have something in common after all.

It is a moving read as you appreciate how difficult it must be for someone in a wheelchair to make relational connections with others, even in family settings where it should be easiest but may not be. It also makes you realize that finding common ground may not be as difficult as it first appears.

Jemima Trappel has done a great job with the illustrations. I especially liked Ivy's facial expressions and body language.

Overall a lovely book.

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Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Blog Tour : Same

This blog tour is for the children’s book: Same by Katrina Roe and illustrated by Jemima Trappel. This book is part of a blog tour organized by Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance

My book review can be found here.

5 – 9 October

is introducing

(Wombat Books 1 July 2015)


Written by: Katrina Roe
Illustrated by: Jemima Trappel

About the Book:
When Uncle Charlie comes to visit, Ivy keeps her distance. He seems different from other people she knows. Can Uncle Charlie find a way to show her that he is not so different after all?

Same is a touching true story about love, acceptance and finding common ground.

Katrina Roe’s debut children’s book Marty’s Nut-Free Party was shortlised in the Speech Pathology and CALEB awards. Same helps a child relate to what is actually the same, in someone who seems so different.

About the Author:
Katrina Roe is an author and radio presenter.

Most recently she was host of the morning show on Sydney’s Hope 103.2 radio ( before leaving to have her second baby.

Katrina also has a successful parenting blog: (

Marty’s Nut-Free Party was her first children’s book, followed by Emily Eases her Wheezes . Emily was listed as a notable book by CBCA in 2015. Same is her latest book, and is scheduled for release in July 2015.

Katrina has also contributed to two inspirational anthologies, All Creation Sings: Psalms of Everyday Christians and a book about miscarriage called In God’s Hands: Overcoming Miscarriage in a Broken World.

In 2009, she completed her Masters in International Relations, just for fun! Katrina also likes kayaking, bushwalking, reading novels, taking holidays, listening to music and hanging out with friends. She’s adamant that tea should always be made in a pot and she has a definite weakness for soft cheese. She lives in Sydney with her three young daughters and her husband Chris.

About the Illustrator:
Jemima is a Sydney-based artist and illustrator who enjoys riding her bicycle. Like many illustrators she was born holding a pencil and uses it frequently to bring words to life.

She decided to make a career out of her passion, and in 2012, after five years at the College of Fine Arts and the University of NSW, she emerged with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (with honours), a Bachelor of Arts (a combined degree) and the ability to converse in French.

Same by Katrina Roe, is her first book with Wombat Books. Prior to this, Jemima illustrated Wonderfully Madison (2013 – winner of the children's book category in the Caleb awards that year) and Fearlessly Madison (2014) by Penny Reeve (published by Youthworks Media). She is also the illustrator of the short comic, A friend in need, by Karen Bielharz (part of the self-published Kinds of Blue anthology, 2011), and is the linework artist for the short animation Money Tree (2011), written and directed by Hawanatu Bangura.

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Saturday, October 03, 2015

Devotional Thought : Isaiah 37:3

They told him, "This is what Hezekiah says: This day is a day of distress and rebuke and disgrace, as when children come to the moment of birth and there is no strength to deliver them." Isaiah 37:3

Hezekiah realized that he had no resources or "no strength" left to fight the Assyrians. Sennacherib king of Assyria had already attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them (36:1) and now he was coming for Jerusalem. Unless God intervened they were ruined.

Oswalt in Constable's Commentary, writes: "This kind of admission of helplessness is frequently a necessity before divine help can be received. So long as we believe that we only need some assistance, we are still treating ourselves as lord of the situation and that latent pride cuts us off from all God would give us."

So often when we are facing a difficult situation we ask God for some assistance rather than admitting how powerless we really are. Our independence and self-sufficiency (or our "latent pride") gives us a false sense of confidence and persuades us that we can manage with just a little help.

We see ourselves as "lord of the situation." We tell ourselves others have faced worst situations and survived so surely we should be able to handle whatever comes. This attitude stops us from asking God for all the help we need.

On both occasions when Hezekiah received bad news (v1 & 14) his first reaction was to go to the temple of the Lord. He prays for the people (v.4) and God's reputation (v.20). By his actions Hezekiah acknowledges his inadequacy to resolve the situation.

It requires faith to respond like this, to say to God unless you intervene we are doomed but humility is the pathway to the resources of God.

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Thursday, October 01, 2015

Book Review : Approval Addiction

I have had Approval Addiction by Joyce Meyer on my shelf for some time before deciding to read it. I was in the habit of listening to Joyce's CD messages and didn't feel the need to also read her books. Plus I haven't felt like I have a problem with trying to please people.

However lately I've been doing less driving so haven't been listening to her CDs and thought perhaps there was something to be gained from reading about this issue. This proved to be true. While I don't have a major problem with people-pleasing, I realized, as I read, that in some situations I do gravitate towards doing this. The most challenging thing Joyce said was if someone is controlling your behaviour, it is your fault for letting them. Since reading the book I have found myself being more careful about allowing others to sway my behaviour.

Joyce writes about the various ways people-pleasing can manifest itself and the emotional wounds that can cause someone to become addicted to the approval of others. In this Joyce uses many examples from her own life as well as others.

Joyce can be a bit repetitive. However this may only be a problem for those of us who also listens to her messages besides, sometimes it doesn't hurt to be reminded.

Overall a helpful read.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Not hired servants

When the prodigal son returned to his father, after disgracing himself, he would have been happy to be one of his Father’s hired servants (Luke 15:19). This would be perfectly reasonable, considering he prematurely demanded his inheritance and then wasted it living an immoral lifestyle. The son figured the best he could hope for was that his father would employ him. However his father doesn't employ him, he restores him to the position of a favoured son.

Often as Christians we act like we are in God's employ, like we are his hired servants. We know God has forgiven us, but now we imagine like the prodigal son, we have to somehow repay God for our past indiscretions.

However we are not God’s hired servants. We are his dearly loved children, not because of anything we have done. God simply chose to put us in the position of a favoured son or daughter. We have worth and value because we are his, and this is the way God wants us to see ourselves.

I am his child, dearly loved and special to him.

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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Devotional Thought : Isaiah 36:18-20

Have the gods of any nations ever delivered their lands from the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they rescued Samaria from my hand? Who of all the gods of these countries have been able to save their lands from me? How then can the Lord deliver Jerusalem from my hand? Isaiah 36:18-20

In this passage the commander for the king of Assyria is saying, The Lord is just like other gods. Other gods couldn't save people from their lands and since the commander had already taken Samaria and captured the fortified cities of Judah (v.1), he thought it would be no different for Jerusalem. The commander told them that their God wouldn't save them but he didn't realize that the Lord had given Samaria into his hand because of Israel's sins (2 Kings 17). Ultimately the commander was proved wrong and he wasn't able to capture Jerusalem.

The common thought by God's prophets and kings throughout the Old Testament was that there is no god like Jehovah. God's deliverance of his people from Egypt amongst other incidences testified to this. It was something God's leaders reiterated to the people regarding God—there was none like theirs.

The phrase, "none like you" often occurs in modern songs because these songs are based on Scripture. What does it mean for us to sing, "none like you" when we mostly don't live in a polytheistic society?

It means there is nothing or no one who can satisfy the needs of the human heart like God can; there is nothing or no one who can cleanse our sins like God can; there is nothing or no one who can give us security for the future like God can.

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Book Review : The Prodigal God

The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller sheds new light on the familiar parable of the prodigal son. Keller points out that generally we have focussed on the first son to the exclusion of the second, whereas both sons are lost to their father.

By concentrating on the first son we have lost the impact of what Jesus is saying about the true nature of Christianity. Both sons were trying to finding happiness and fulfilment outside the father's house. The younger son found living with his father restrictive (plus his other brother was probably obnoxious to live with) and the older son thought his father was a slave driver but both boys were wrong about their father.

As Christian we tend to gravitate to one of these positions. Either we are like younger sons who want to find pleasure outside of God's protective boundaries or we are like older sons who are slaving away trying to earn our way into our Father's good graces. Both have a distorted view of God's grace.

Keller then does a good job of applying his argument. He points out that our churches are often full of older brothers who haven't really grasp hold of God's grace and are still trying to earn their way. This tends to make them self-righteous and critical and not attractive to younger brothers.

A challenging and thought provoking read.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Faith & Obedience

This remark was recently posted as a comment on my blog (and lots of other people's too, if Google is anything to go by). I have reproduced it in an abbreviated form as I'd like to explain a couple of words from a Biblical point of view.

"Was Noah Saved by Faith Alone? By Steve Finnell

Those who claim they were saved by "faith alone" like to quote Hebrews 11:7 to prove they were by "faith only," just like Noah.

Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of righteousness which is according to faith.(NKJV)

Noah was not saved the minute he had faith, he was saved and became an heir of righteousness after faith plus preparing the ark.

Noah was saved by faith plus obedience, not by faith alone.

He was obedient by preparing the ark for saving his household. If Noah had tried being saved by "faith alone" he would have drown just like the rest of the world."

Hebrews 11 commends the "ancients" for their faith (not their obedience) (v.1). Noah was saved by faith and completed his faith by building an ark. If faith doesn't cause us to act it isn't Biblical faith, it's just mental assent. If Noah hadn't built the ark, it would have told us that Noah didn't really believe there was going to be a flood and thus didn't have faith. We also see how this works in Abraham's life in James 2:22 "You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did".

Furthermore where I live "obedience" has come to mean something that I have to do that I don't want to. Often there is punishment if I choose not to do whatever it is I'm supposed to do. It's often controlling and lacking in love which is not the Biblical understanding of obedience. In the Bible obedience is motivated by love (John 14) not duty. It is something I want to do because I love God not something I have to do in order to get something from God.

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Saturday, September 19, 2015

Devotional Thought : Isaiah 30:32

Every stroke the Lord lays on them with his punishing club will be to the music of timbrels and harps, as he fights them in battle with the blows of his arm. Isaiah 30:32

In the Message Bible the verse reads: "Every blow God lands on them with his club is in time to the music of drums and pipes."

There is throughout Scripture an interesting connection between singing and warfare (Psalm 149:6-9, 2 Chronicles 20:21-22).

In our church services we are doing far more than just singing songs. We can be engaging in spiritual warfare without even moving from our seats. Our praise to God harms the enemy of souls in ways we don't realize.

Why would this be? Singing is important because we sing out the truth of God’s word and proclaim God’s goodness regardless of our circumstances. We declare God’s character and reinforce spiritual truth as we sing to him. We affirm God’s attributes and make a declaration to the spiritual forces of evil that we are going to put our trust in an invisible God. As we sing unto the Lord with our hearts and minds, we are inflicting damage on the devil and shifting things in the spiritual realm.

Furthermore singing is a corporate activity where believers come together who may have nothing else in common except their Christian faith and yet together they become an army. The strength in unity becomes a further attack on the devil who tries to isolate and cause friction between Christians.

Karl Faase recently twittered, "In a culture cynical, critical and dismissive of faith our most subversive act is to stand together in worship singing statements of faith."

When we stand and sing together, let's engage wholeheartedly and be mindful of what we are achieving in the spiritual realm.

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Book Review : Freedom to Explore

Freedom to Explore : a provocative A-Z for the church by Michael Frost is a collection of 26 articles Frost originally wrote for Alive magazine. Some of the articles are also extracts from his books. Mostly I enjoyed this collection of largely unrelated thoughts as Frost has an interesting perspective which is a bit unorthodox but often highly insightful. He has the ability to take a seemingly ordinary event and bring out a spiritual insight.

I thought it was a clever idea to use the letters of the alphabet to introduce each article and I liked the illustrations (by Andre de Borde) which were well-matched with the topics.

However I did struggle with some of his thoughts about the future direction of the church, while I understand his frustrations and find his ideas attractive, I just don't see them as practical. Or perhaps I have just never been in situations where I could envisage them working.

The book is becoming dated, having being published in 2002, which is probably why I was able to buy it at a discounted price. Nevertheless I found it a worthwhile read.

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