Thursday, April 30, 2015

Congregational singing is a holy act ~ Keith Getty

Keith also writes, "Throughout Scripture, the command to sing is given to God’s people more than 400 times."

Singing in a church service gives us one of the few opportunities to express what is on our hearts to God. It is our opportunity to connect with God using the song as a means to do this. Sometimes the song won't quite fit what we want to say but God knows our heart.

When we praise the Lord we are inviting his felt presence to be amongst us. Of course God is always with us but on certain occasions his presence is made known to us in larger measures. When we sing unto the Lord he draws close to us as we draw close to him. At such times God may impart to us wisdom, knowledge, and guidance so singing also becomes listening. Psalm 22:3 uses the word “enthroned” and conjures up the idea of our praises creating a spiritual throne where we become more aware of God’s majesty and his awesomeness.

Neil Anderson, makes the comment the church is not a hospital but rather a military outpost with an infirmary. Meaning while it is the role of the church to care for the sick and wounded our primary function is to enforce God’s reign and rule, and sometimes we do this just by singing praise to God.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Book Review : Nice girls don't change the world

Nice girls don't change the world is Lynne Hybels' autobiographical account of changing from a people pleaser to a woman of faith and action. Lynne grew up believing in a demanding, unpleasable God, even though intellectually she knew God was a God of love and grace. However in her heart she felt she had to try hard to earn his love and atone for her misdeeds.

In her late thirties she became seriously depressed and no longer had the energy to work at pleasing God or anyone else. She saw a counsellor who helped her work through many issues. It was a long journey of self-discovery and renewal of her relationship with God to a more Biblically accurate understanding of God.

There was much in this book I relate to. Growing up in the 60's and 70's women were only beginning to receive recognition in the work force. The expectation was still for women to be wives and mothers who supported their husbands and children with little regard for their own personal gifting and skills. It was hard to break the status quo and pursue interests in areas where women were not always welcome.

Lynne's story is a great encouragement to older women who feel they have nothing to offer or are fearful of stepping out into something new. It is a well-written book, easy to read and quite moving.

A good read.

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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Devotional thought : Judges 6:23-24

But the Lord said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.” So Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it The Lord Is Peace. To this day it stands in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. Judges 6:23-24

In the midst of conflict Gideon built an altar called, the Lord is Peace. At this point Gideon had not defeated the enemy. Yet he had an encounter with God that taught him regardless of his circumstances the Lord is Peace.

I wonder if we ever had a powerful encounter with God that convinces us that regardless of our circumstances the Lord is Peace? Perhaps we have but have fallen back into our old habits of worrying about the future.

When we know that the Lord is Peace we have a sense of security. We are held in his hands and nothing can happen to us that we can’t handle because he is with us, enabling us and sustaining us. He is able to help in any situation.

When we know that the Lord is Peace we have a sense of acceptance. We belong to God, we are his beloved children and we can relax in the peace of knowing we are deeply loved.

When we know that the Lord is Peace we know that God is good. An evil king won’t stop strife but a good king wants his people to live in peace. God is the ultimate good king who wants peace so much he sent his Son to die that peace could be achieved.

In the midst of conflict, difficulties or overwhelming issues we can always seek and find peace because our Lord is peace. We can rest in the knowledge that God is good, God is love and God is able.

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

On receiving free gifts

In our society it seems to have become necessary to use the word 'free' to describe gifts. Of course, a gift is automatically free or it wouldn't be a gift. Yet such is the modern mind set we expect to have to pay for everything and if we are given a gift we feel the need to repay by giving a gift in return.

I read a story about a man (in America) who was having what we would call a garage sale. All the items for sale were marked with a price. When people had chosen what they wanted, they went inside to pay. He then told them everything was free. Most were decidedly uncomfortable in getting something for nothing. They had brought their money expecting to pay, they had chosen their items expecting to pay, but suddenly they were on the receiving end of grace. It took them by surprise and made them feel uneasy. The owner of the sale explained he wanted people to experience in a very small way what Jesus does for us.

Jesus freely gave his life for us. We can't repay or give a big enough gift in return to lessen our indebtedness to him. We can only accept it as a 'free' gift.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Book Review : Teaching to change lives

Dr. Howard Hendricks has spent a lifetime teaching students in various disciplines and brings to his subject a wealth of experience. He aims his book, Teaching to change lives, mostly at those who teach in church settings such as Sunday School classes, Bible Study groups and those doing theological studies.

Though I've never met the author I imagine he speaks like he writes. The book is written with a great deal of passion and enthusiasm. You can almost hear his excitement which makes it easy to read.

Dr. Hendricks is keen to impart his love of teaching and help others to become better teachers. The book is structured around seven 'laws': The law of the teacher, of education, of activity, of communication, of the heart, of encouragement, and of readiness. In reality though there is much overlap between these 'laws'.

His main points are engage the student's mind and heart, that is, do more than impart information that can be parroted back to you. God's Word is meant to change lives and teachers are change agents. Otherwise we are only entertaining or boring our audience. Encourage students to be self-learners don't tell them everything you know, teach them how to make discoveries for themselves. Have a practical application of what you are teaching. If students are not able to put what they have learnt into practice they will quickly forget it.

Overall a useful resource.

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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Devotional Thought : Judges 1:19

The Lord was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had chariots fitted with iron. Judges 1:19

There is no record that the men of Judah attack these people and experienced defeat. Did they try or did they simply assume they would not be able to succeed because of the “chariots fitted with iron”? This in spite of the fact that God was with them and promised them the land.

It is easy to talk ourselves into defeat before we even attempt something. We assess the risk, the superior resources of others and conclude we can’t accomplish our God given task. We don’t even ask God how to overcome the difficulties. We believe the situation is too difficult and nothing can change.

Later in Judges Deborah sings about God's victory over their enemies who had chariots fitted with iron (4:13). It appears that God sent a storm which probably bogged the chariots (5:4, 21) as Sisera had to flee on foot (4:17). God enabled them to overcome those who were far better equipped. The Israelites not only didn’t they have chariots but didn’t have shields or spears either (5:8). Deborah succeeds where the men of Judah failed.

How often are we discouraged and disempowered by circumstances? How often do we look at our own resources and not God’s? How often do we settle for less than God’s best?

Deborah had to wait and pray for the right opportunity. The Israelites had been oppressed for twenty years before Deborah took action (4:3). Yet when the time was right, she was ready.

Likewise we need to be watchful and prayerful so when God wants us to act we are not overcome by limited expectations.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

10 Things John Piper Learnt in Hospital

I came across an old article by John Piper where he listed ten things he learnt following an unexpected stay in hospital. I have added my own notes to each point.

1. Don’t murmur about delays and inefficiencies in the hospital, when you are getting medical care that surpasses by a hundredfold what is available in 90% of the world.
Even in the worst circumstances there is always a reason to be grateful.

2. Don’t let yourself be numbed spiritually by the ceaseless barrage of sounds, noises, television, and chatter that surround you in the hospital.
It is difficult being in a situation where you can't get away from the noise. It is a time to receive God's enabling so we can focus our thoughts on him.

3. Don’t default to the television.
Television can be a good distraction if you are unwell. However it can go from being a resource to a source of comfort if we allow it to take over our minds. Choose what you want to watch and look to the Source of all comfort.

4. Pray for the patients near you and, if possible — without undue offense — see if your roommate will let you pray for him, and tell him words of hope in Jesus.
God knows those he has place around you for "such a time as this". Praying for others also helps keep our minds off ourselves.

5. Realize that physical pain makes focusing on God’s promises more difficult and demands greater concentrating effort.
Don't get discouraged if you can't read, meditate or pray as you normally would. Instead keep your prayers, readings etc. short and simple.

6. Reach out to a friend or family member to help you.
Accept help, not just from family but from significant others. If it is a serious illness family members may also be struggling. Remember that God didn't intend for us to do life alone.

7. Accept the humiliation of wearing the same unflattering gown everyone else wears.
Humility is hard to learn but it is good for us. It is a virtue highly valued in God's sight.

8. Let the pain and misery of your body, and of the people around you, remind you of the exceeding moral horror and spiritual ugliness of sin.
Suffering is not God's intention but came about because of sin. We become so accustom to sin and suffering that we forget it is an aberration.

9. Let the self-revelation of Jesus as the good physician be sweet to your soul, and preach to yourself that this light momentary affliction is working for you an eternal weight of glory.
The devil will tempt us to doubt God's goodness during times of distress but focussing on the cross will remind us of his great love.

10. Pray that none of these hospital hours, none of this pain, none of these fears, none of these relationships, none of this life-altering season will be wasted.
Nothing in God is wasted. God will use suffering to mould us and make us more like Jesus. However it is often not until we can look back with the benefit of hindsight that we realize how God has changed us. Therefore be patience with yourself.

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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Devotional Thought : Joshua 24:19-20

Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.” Joshua 24:19-20

The Israelites were prone to adding to their worship of God rituals from the pagan worship that was continuing in the land. Joshua was pointing out to them that God is holy – completely separate and set apart from other gods. He is a jealous God and wants his people’s full attention and devotion and not living to also appease other lesser things or goals. God views this as rebellion – when we allow other things in our lives to take precedence over our devotion to him.

When the people began adding pagan rituals to their worship of God it eventually lead to then forsaking God altogether. God told the people if they forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will bring disaster on them. Of course, this is what eventually happened and hundreds of years later Israel was taken into exile.

God’s patience is amazing! He knew they would forsake him but gave them opportunity after opportunity to return to him. Joshua spoke truly when he said, “You are not able to serve the Lord.” The people tried to serve the Lord in their own strength, with their own will power and determination and failed.

Today we also need to recognize our inability to serve the Lord in our own strength, with our own will power and determination. In order to serve the Lord we need his enabling, which God will freely give to those who ask.

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Thursday, April 09, 2015

Blog Tour : Andrew Murray Destined to Serve

This blog tour is for the novel: Andrew Murray Destined to Serve by Dr Olea Nel. This book is part of a blog tour organized by Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance.

6 – 10 April 2015

is introducing

(Clairvaux House (own imprint), 1 October 2014)


Dr Olea Nel

About the Book:
For those who love Historical Fiction about Christian heroes of the faith. Historically accurate, and based upon Andrew Murray's letters and early biographies.

A boyish and fun-loving Andrew Murray arrives back in South Africa after being ordained at the Hague on his twentieth birthday. He soon discovers that his preaching lacks the power displayed by his heroes of the faith. He therefore decides to embark on a quest to become a powerful preacher filled with the Holy Spirit.

About the Author:
Dr Olea Nel was born in Cape Town, South Africa. After completing her training as a teacher in Andrew Murray’s heartland of Wellington, she relocated to Australia to further her studies. Besides attaining a PhD in Linguistics, she also has qualifications in Information Studies and Theology. Having now retired from her position as a senior librarian at the National Library of Australia, she is able to pursue her passion for research, especially within the fields of church history and biography. Her aim is to share her findings with fellow Christians.

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Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Back From Holidays

My holiday break took a bit longer than expected. However now I'm back! This is a photo of Mt Cook in New Zealand which we were fortunate to see without cloud cover while we had our lunch.

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