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)

by

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 (www.hope1032.com.au) before leaving to have her second baby.

Katrina also has a successful parenting blog: (https://frommouthsofbabes.wordpress.com).

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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