Saturday, February 27, 2016

Devotional Thought : 2 Samuel 18:33

The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: "O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!" 2 Samuel 18:33

There are many pictures in the Old Testament that teach us something about Jesus. Every major figure in the Bible points to him. Every king reminds us of the promise of a future King.

On this occasion we see King David so distraught over death of Absalom that he wished he had died as a substitute. Likewise Jesus, our king, was so distraught over the death penalty that sin brought that he died as our substitute.

Absalom wasn't a virtuous person yet David loved him greatly and was willing to die in his place. Likewise we aren't virtuous people but Jesus loves us greatly and willingly died in our place.

David shows us that when you love greatly you are willing to lay down your life for another. Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends" (John 15:13). David reminds us how much Jesus loves us.

Jesus taught his disciples to look for him in the Old Testament. When he walked with the couple on the Emmaus Road, he began "… with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself" (Luke 24:27).

Philip did the same thing when he found the Ethiopian reading from Isaiah. "Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus" (Acts 8:35).

The more we understand Jesus and his ministry, the more we will see him in the stories of the Old Testament.

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Book Review : Experiencing Christ Together

I enjoy Neil Anderson's teaching and have read most of his books. I found Experiencing Christ Together was a look at familiar material from the viewpoint of marriage. In some ways this made it a bit stale at times but nevertheless it is excellent teaching and it's good to be reminded of the importance of who we are in Christ.

As you would expect, Anderson and Mylander deal with many issues particularly related to marriage, such as communication, family or origin, love languages, sex before marriage, adultery etc. They also drew on the wisdom of others quoting from John Gray's, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus and Gary Chapman's, The Five Love Languages in particular. There are also many illustrations from the lives of those they have minister to or counselled.

There is additional material for group discussion as well as a devotional activity for couples at the end of each chapter. The last chapter contains steps to freedom for couples to work through where they ask God to reveal blockages in their marriages or in their personal lives. There are prayers and declarations to help with this process.

Overall this is a useful resource for couples or for use in church ministry.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Accepting mistreatment

Paul expected the Corinthians to understand that Jesus wasn’t only their Saviour, but also their Lord. God was in charge, and nothing could happen to them without his permission. At one point he exhorted them with these words: “Why not just accept the injustice and leave it at that? Why not let yourselves be cheated?” (1 Corinthians 6:7 NLT). This is a huge challenge. It means I don’t have to wrestle for my rights or worry about being ripped off. However, neither do I need to behave like a doormat. Rather I live my life being deeply convinced that I have a Heavenly Father, who will take care of me.

We see this attitude in Abram, who said to Lot in Genesis 13:8-9: “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine … Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.” Abram was older than Lot and therefore entitled to first choice, but instead he let Lot choose first. Abram didn’t cling to the things of this world because he had the long-term view in mind, and he knew nothing could thwart God’s purpose for his life. Nor was Abram worried about temporary inconveniences. The land Lot left to Abram was rocky and hilly, but Abram wasn’t concerned. It goes against the attitude of our world, which is very much focused on getting the best for ourselves. Abram accepted mistreatment at Lot’s hands with a "1 Corinthians 6:7" attitude. He let himself be cheated of what was rightfully his, leaving the outcome to God.

Accepting mistreatment isn’t for the young in the Lord, and it is only possible if we have the assurance that God is in control of all the circumstances of our lives. If we are not convinced God controls our circumstances and we merely acquiesce to the wishes of others for the sake of peace we will find ourselves being a doormat. This is not God's intention.

Accepting mistreatment doesn’t mean never speaking up or expressing a choice or opinion but it does mean not fighting, being manipulative or domineering just to get our own way.

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Saturday, February 20, 2016

Devotional Thought : 2 Samuel 15:25-26

Then the king said to Zadok, "Take the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the Lord’s eyes, he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling place again. But if he says, 'I am not pleased with you,' then I am ready; let him do to me whatever seems good to him." 2 Samuel 15:25-26

I am surprised that David didn't pray for rescue and reinstatement to the kingship. I'm sure I would have! David's desire was to return to Jerusalem so he could be near the ark of God where he experienced the presence of God. However David knew he had done the wrong thing. He had committed adultery and murder and been a bad witness to his son, Absalom, who now sought to take over the kingdom. So David committed himself to God and "whatever seems good to him."

From his previous experiences, David knew that God wasn't only powerful but gracious. Elsewhere when David was faced with a choice of punishments he had said, "… Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into human hands" (2 Samuel 24:14).

In David's current predicament God could restore or banish him. David realising this, chose to trust God's judgement. Not pleading, not insisting, not reminding God of his promises, but accepting whatever consequence God ordained. This attitude requires faith in God's character. It requires an understanding that God is just but merciful, he is powerful but recognises human frailty, he is faithful to his promises but disciplines those who go astray.

Instead of praying to be rescued David committed the outcome to God. Do we pray for restoration to God's Presence? Or for rescue from unpleasant circumstances?

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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Book Review : All the places to go

All the places to go by John Ortberg is mostly a fun read. Ortberg is seriously challenging people to take more risks and be open to new opportunities but he does it with such humour and light-heartedness that you almost don't realise the significance of his message.

Ortberg uses the metaphor of the open door from Revelation 3:8 "See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut" to write about stepping into new ventures and new ministries for God. He spends time on why we are reluctant to move into new things and encourages people by discussing what they might be missing out on as well as some of the hurdles involved in taking a new direction. He also spends time discussing our indecision and why we don't always get a clear message from God in our decision making. God wants us to mature and make wise decisions without always being told what to do.

Ortberg uses self-deprecating humour to great effect. As well as using his own stories, he also includes other family, friends and congregation members to illustrate his points. Towards the end I was beginning to feel the "open door" metaphor was being slightly overdone but Ortberg makes it such fun, it's hard to criticise.

An enjoyable, yet challenging read.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Quote by Annie Dillard

This is a quote from The Writing Life by Annie Dillard (my review here). I found it quite amusing:

"Many writers do little else but sit in small rooms recalling the real world. This explains why so many books describe the author's childhood. A writer's childhood may well have been the occasion of his only firsthand experience. Writers read literary biography, and surround themselves with other writers, deliberately to enforce in themselves the ludicrous notion that a reasonable option for occupying yourself on the planet until your life span plays itself out is sitting in a small room for the duration, in the company of pieces of paper."

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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Devotional Thought : 2 Samuel 14:13-14

The woman said, "… When the king says this, does he not convict himself, for the king has not brought back his banished son? Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But that is not what God desires; rather, he devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from him." 2 Samuel 14:13-14

Joab arranged for this woman to speak to King David with a view to bringing Absalom back from exile after he murdered Amnon (because he raped Tamar). Joab and the people wanted David to show Absalom grace and allow him to return to Jerusalem. The woman rather bravely reminds the king that God creates ways to show mercy and therefore David should do likewise.

Some feel that the God of the Old Testament is harsh and legalistic whereas Jesus inaugurated a new covenant of grace. But God has always been a God of grace. In the very beginning we see God, as an act of grace, making garments for Adam and Eve so they were clothed (Genesis 3:21). Here in these verses we see that even God's people in the Old Testament knew that God was merciful and devised ways so that a banished person doesn't remain banished.

God looks for ways to show his grace and reinstate people when they have fallen into sin. Although he is a holy God, he is also merciful. The sacrificial system that God instructed Moses to establish was to teach his people that forgiveness was possible. Failure isn't final.

The ultimate way God devised, so that a guilty person does not remain banished from God's presence forever, was the cross. It was a costly solution to the problem of sin but God orchestrated it to ensure people weren't banished forever.

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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Book Review : Next of Kin

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.

I always find the context of Carol Preston's books very interesting and this is likewise the case with Next of Kin.

The book is set around Grafton in the late 1800's at a time when the descendants of German immigrants and others were experiencing the prejudices of the white Australian community. The story reveals the many of the problems that were prevalent at this time in history, some of which are still with us. For example the reluctance of older immigrants to embrace a new culture – or at least allow their children to do so, the prejudice of the original settlers in welcoming new people into the community and the mistrust of people whose lifestyle is different to ours. The book also deals with the age old problem of overcoming bitterness through forgiveness.

Carol weaves an engaging story against this back drop. Fanny Franks grows up in a loving family but others have not been so fortunate. As much as Fanny would like to help, she finds herself with difficulties of her own and comes across prejudices that run deeper than culture.

One thing I would have liked in this book is a family tree diagram which have made it easier to remember who was related to whom. Being true to the era, people had large families so it was sometimes difficult to keep track of everyone. However as the main drama focussed on a select few it wasn't unwieldy.

An enjoyable read.

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Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Blog Tour : Next of Kin

This blog tour is for the novel: Next of Kin by Carol Preston. This book is part of a blog tour organized by Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance

My book review can be found here.


7 – 11 February


is introducing


Rhiza Press, May 2015

by

Carol Preston


About the Book:
Fanny Franks was raised to believe in honesty, equality and acceptance, regardless of background or circumstances. When she meets brothers Jack and Jim, she is drawm to them by the alienation and injustice which seems to pervade their lives. She is determined to intervene and help them find happiness, until a trauma in her own life brings discrimination and shame for which she is ill prepared. While she deals with her own struggle she comes to understand what Jim and Jack are going through - and they find where they truly belong.


About the Author:
Carol lives in Wollongong with her husband, Neil. She is a psychologist and has a part time private counselling practice, as well as being an author and speaker. Carol enjoys spending time with her children and four grandchildren, as well as bushwalking, gardening and holidaying overseas with her husband. One of her hobbies over many years has been family history research.

It was this research which started Carol on the journey of writing novels. Her first trilogy is about the Oakes Family; Suzannah’s Gold, Rebecca’s Dream and The Price of Peace, which takes the reader from 1838 when her great great grandmother, Suzannah Casey was transported from Ireland, through to the end of the First World War. Carol’s fourth novel, The Face of Forgiveness, is about two young women who are transported to Australia in 1839.

Carol has also written the Turning the Tide Series, based on her mother’s family, which begins with the First Fleet of convicts to Australia in 1788. These include Mary’s Guardian, Charlotte’s Angel, Tangled Secrets, and Truly Free. Next of Kin is her ninth novel. For more information about Carol’s books and her other interests she can be contacted on her website: www.carolpreston.com.au on her Facebook author page: www.facebook.com/writingtoreach or her Amazon author page: www.amazon.com/author/carolpreston .

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Saturday, February 06, 2016

Devotional Thought : 2 Samuel 12:7-8

I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. 2 Samuel 12:7-8

This was part of the rebuke that Nathan the prophet delivered to David following his sexual liaison with Bathsheba. David had become presumptuous and took God's blessings for granted. God, through Nathan, reminds David that he had protected him from Saul, made him king, provided him with wives and given him a position of leadership over all Israel and Judah.

But by his actions David said to God, "It's not enough, I want more!" So he sent for Bathsheba and slept with her (11:4).

In God's reprimand he goes on to say, "And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more" (v. 8). God doesn't rebuke David for wanting more but rather for not asking for more!

David had stopped pursuing all God had for him. Perhaps David believed that since God had given him so much already he couldn't expect more. Perhaps he thought there were limits on God's blessings or that he wasn't worthy to receive any more or that he would have to use his own initiative to gain more.

Yet throughout the Bible we see God's desire to bless his people.

In Malachi 3:10 God wants to open the floodgates of heaven and pour out blessing.

In Isaiah 61:7 God wants to give "a double portion."

In Ephesians 3:20 God wants "to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine."

In John 2:1-10 Jesus provides an overabundance of wine.

God always has more for us – more to give us, teach us and show us. But are we prepared to humble ourselves and ask?

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Thursday, February 04, 2016

Book Review : The Writing Life

I first came across Annie Dillard when I discovered a quote which I liked very much. I wrote about it here. Then at Christmas I was given, The Writing Life as a present.

The book is a series of vignettes describing an author's writing life. By giving biographical glimpses, as well as including the experiences of other authors and friends, readers can find validation to pursue their own writing journey. Dillard outlines how she writes and edits but you don't feel compelled to duplicate her pattern. Although I imagine she finds it organized, I found it unwieldly and inefficient. She doesn't even suggest you do follow her method but rather you feel encouraged to find what works best for you. There's a sense there is no right formula for writing as different things work for different people at different times.

On page 53 Dillard claims to hate writing which seems rather odd since she spends so much time doing it. I suspect she means she hates how difficult it is to write in a clear but engaging way.

The book is written in a conversational style which at times seems to ramble along interesting diversions which are somehow connected with Dillard's love of the written word. She also loves and is inspired by the environment so animals and nature often find their way into her writing.

While the book didn't contain any practical advice that I could use, it was nevertheless an interesting insight into an author's world.

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Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Unobtainable expectations

One of the expectations we have about our church services is it has to be good enough to invite those who are not believers. Once I asked someone who felt like this: Can you imagine a church service where you would feel comfortable inviting a friend who wasn’t a Christian? They couldn’t, which makes me think we have created an unobtainable expectation. I don’t think a church service has to be anywhere near perfect to do the basics, provide instruction in the Word of God, give expression for the worship of God and create opportunity to connect with other Christians.

When I first became a Christian, I was so thankful to be saved it didn’t matter to me what the church service was like. I just wanted to be with other Christians who could teach me more about God. I found the words of the songs inspired me, the words of the prayers taught me how to pray, the sermon instructed me. Christians fascinated me because I knew so few, and I wanted to know more. I wanted to know about their faith, their relationship to God, how they prayed, how they heard from God. Our church services don’t need to be perfect. Authenticity and responsiveness to God go a long way and makes a deep impression.

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