Thursday, June 30, 2016

Christian sub-cultures

church with wall
There've been times in my Christian life when I've slipped into a Christian sub-culture where it was possible for me not to have a meaningful conversation with someone outside the church for weeks on end. The church became not only the place where I gathered with others for worship and instruction, but also the place that met all my social and recreational needs.

For a few years my children went to a Christian school as well, so it very quickly became possible to live isolated from contact with the general public. God's intention is that we live in the world and not isolate ourselves from it.

It becomes more difficult to be involved in outreach if we live in a Christian sub-culture because we no longer understand those we are trying to reach. This is most obvious in children's ministry. The way children are taught in schools is quite different from the way I was taught.

Learning is much more student-driven. They are given more independence, more choices, and have more technology available to them. Whether we agree with the changes or not is unimportant. We must adapt our methods to reach children in a medium they enjoy, if we are to impact them with the gospel.

This is true in many areas, sometimes we are like missionaries in our own culture, seeking to understand the mind-set of those we would like to encourage towards faith. If we cut ourselves off from others we lose the opportunity to share our lives and our beliefs with them.

Beware of sub-cultures.

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Monday, June 27, 2016

Blog tour : Clash of the Titles


Welcome!

Scroll through these FIVE new reads and go here to vote
for which you'd pick up first. It'll be a tough choice!
But somebody's gotta do it. May as well be you!



Finders Keepers by Sarah Monzon

Summer Arnet will go anywhere to capture the perfect shot that will get her marine photography noticed by the prestigious nature magazine, Our World—even diving in waters haunted by great white sharks. When a treasure hunter with a ladies’-man reputation approaches her about a sunken ship at one of her dive locations, it may be the chance she’s been looking for to launch her career…if his charming smile doesn’t derail her first.
~~~~~~ 



Resilience by L.R. Burkard

In this spell-binding sequel to the post-apocalyptic thriller PULSE, L.R.Burkard takes readers into a landscape where teens shoulder rifles instead of school books, and where survival might mean becoming your own worst enemy.
~~~~~~


A Matter of Courage by Wendy Holley

Abused by her famous husband, Irene Brennan is forced to flee to a small town in Montana, leaving everything behind. Trent is used to protecting wild animals from careless hunters, but can he protect Irene from her crazy husband?
~~~~~~




Astray (Ariboslia Book 1) by J. F. Rogers

Troubled-teen, Fallon finds hope and family through an unwanted prophecy. In her travels, she learns about the One True God and how desperately she needs Him. Perhaps, with His help, she’ll find the way to fulfill her destiny.
~~~~~~



Her One and Only by Becky Wade

When NFL super star Gray Fowler is threatened by a stalker, his team hires a professional bodyguard to ensure his safety. But when Gray's "protection" turns out to be a woman half his size, he's indignant. Will Dru Porter--a former Marine and expert markswoman--prove herself worthy of the job? And meanwhile, who's going to guard Gray's heart?
~~~~~~

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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Devotional Thought : Leviticus 9:24

Fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown. Leviticus 9:24

Wenham in Constable's Commentary writes: "This chapter brings out very clearly the purpose and character of Old Testament worship. All the pomp and ceremony served one end: the appearance of the glory of God." It's also interesting to note that this is the first time in the Bible a word for joy is used.

The purpose of worship is to draw near to God. Then he will draw near to us (James 4:8) and we will experience his presence. Sometimes this will be almost tangible but most times we will simply know we are in his presence because of his promise (Matthew 18:20).

We might view worship as a duty or a sacrifice and while there is sacrifice involved, God's intention is to bless. David writes in Psalm 16:11 "you will fill me with joy in your presence". God wants us to draw near to him so we can receive his joy.

The sacrificial system in Old Testament times was quite elaborate and costly as they sacrificed animals which could otherwise have been eaten. Yet they remind us of God's costly sacrifice – his own Son. As we focus on God surrendering his Son for us, anything we forego is minor in comparison. Any sense of duty we feel dissolves, as our response becomes one of gratitude.

Perhaps we are reluctant to draw near to God? May be we are challenged by his holiness and our lack of it. God's presence can be like a refining fire to us (Malachi 3:3). Yet his intention is to purify us so we can experience his joy.

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Book Review : No Ordinary View

No Ordinary View is the second in Naomi Reed's series of books about her time as a missionary in Nepal. It overlaps slightly with her first book, My Seventh Monsoon and like her first book is autobiographical in nature.

It is set in Dhulikhel in the Himalayas and the views from their house are amazing but sometimes the most beautiful places in the world seem to be furthest from God spiritually. It is challenging to read of the poverty and the political uncertainty of Nepal and it makes you wonder how one family or many families can make a difference. Yet God would say, 'Who dares despise the day of small things' (Zechariah 4:10). Naomi and her husband Darren were able to leave Nepal knowing they had trained ten Nepalese to carry on their work and a replacement for Darren's position arrived on their last day. So it is also an encouraging book and finishes with a sense of achievement that they had completed the task God had given them.

Naomi writes in an easy to read way which connects with the reader. She relates many of the lessons she learnt in trusting God during difficult times. It was heartening to read how God provided and worked through their circumstances, even though they weren't able to help everyone in need. I was glad I knew they arrived safely back in Australia as I read, because there were several times when their lives were in danger and the tension was apparent.

Overall an entertaining read.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

On Being Better Than Average

If we compare the parable of the prodigal son and the parable of the talents, we notice the youngest son received no rebuke for wasting his father's inheritance on wild living (Luke 15:22), whereas the man who had buried his talent received what is an unusually severe rebuke. "And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 25:30). We would be more inclined to be compassionate toward this man, as he had not done anything illegal, immoral, or even wasteful or wild. Both the Pharisee at the time and the Church in our day may applaud people who avoid wrongdoing, but the absence of wrong isn't enough to earn God's approval.

The parable of the talents suggests this master would have been satisfied with even a small return—just interest—so there was no sign he was a "hard master." The man's laziness suggests deep down he thought his master was "soft." He expected his master to be lenient and let him get away with his inaction. This parable has worrying implications for those who think they will get to heaven because they have lived a better than average life.

Researchers have found 90% of people think they are a better than average driver. This is of course not possible, but it points out how easy it is for us to compare ourselves to others and think we are better than we are. I'm sure there are lots of other areas in life where we think we are better than average. It's this belief of being better than average that makes us think we will gain God's approval but we are seriously mistaken.

It was the prodigal son who was welcome into his father's house when he didn't try to justifying himself. Instead he became humble and received the father's mercy.

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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Devotional Thought : Leviticus 6:4-5

… they must return what they have stolen or taken by extortion, or what was entrusted to them, or the lost property they found, or whatever it was they swore falsely about. They must make restitution in full, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the owner on the day they present their guilt offering. Leviticus 6:4-5

A common theme in the Old Testament is restitution which varies according to the offense and the attitude of the offender. In the situation described here, restitution is made in full plus a fifth when they 'realize their guilt' (v. 4). They have voluntarily realized the error of their ways and sort to make amends.

Elsewhere when someone is caught with stolen goods in their possession they are to pay back double (Exodus 22:4 & 9) and if they are unable to give back the stolen property because they've disposed of it, they are to pay back four or fivefold (Exodus 22:1). These directives were known and taken seriously as we can see in Zacchaeus' response to Jesus (Luke 19:8).

It's remarkable that after restitution has been made the victim is better off than if the item hadn't been taken. The forgiven person is better off than before they sinned. This is a Biblical principle and even God restores people double for their misfortune. This restitution represents stolen property being found in another's possession. Not that God steals from us but sometimes he removes his protection and the devil has an opportunity. This is seen most clearly in Job 1 & 2 and in his restoration in 42:12 (also Isaiah 61:7, Zechariah 9:12). God accepts responsible for evil being in the world, even though it was caused by Adam's disobedience.

We always receive more than we lose.

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Book Review : Original Design

Original Design : Set Free to be Who God Created by Denise Buss is an autobiographical account of a three year period in Denise' life where she experiences much emotional healing.

Denise's story begins with an emotional crisis where she is suicidal. She is about forty at this time. Her relationship with God had started well enough but now has grown distant. Nevertheless she has a pastor friend, Ed who she calls and asks for prayer. This relatively small step towards God begins an amazing journey which continues for the next few years.

Ed and Denise meet together regularly, sometimes several times a week for several hours. God reveals many of Denise's false beliefs which stem from childhood traumas. The devil had been able to use the pain of her childhood to plant his lies. Over time Denise gradually replaces these lies with God's truth but the book illustrates this is not as easy or simple thing to do. Lies which have been part of our lives for decades are hard to dislodge. Nevertheless through Denise's persistence, Ed commitment and God's enabling power, Denise experiences many break throughs and healing. So much so she senses that God has returned her to his 'original design' for her life.

Denise was fortunate to have such a good friend in Ed who was available to spend so much time praying with Denise. So while the book offer much hope for healing, it's also a challenge as to how we ministry to people with deep emotional problems. Are we prepared to spend this much time helping someone in need? Is it sustainable? Are there other way of ministering that we should be considering?

I found Denise story easy to read, though towards the latter stages it became a little repetitive. I was also disappointed with the ending. Our journey with God never ends and he always has new things to teach us, so it can be difficult to find a good place to end a testimony. For Denise, she believes she is about to face another challenge but the book finishes before this eventuates. It made for a slightly unsatisfying ending.

Despite these minor issues, overall I found it an amazing and absorbing read.

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

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

On why you need flour in a flood

My husband first pastoral position was with a small church in rural Queensland. I have mostly lived in small country towns and thought I was reasonably familiar with country life but moving to this isolated farming community was a cultural shock.

One day, not long before we went to Queensland, I was making a cake, which means it must have been one of my children's birthdays, since I had no other reason for making a cake, and I ran out of cocoa. I left my kitchen walked over the road, down a couple of shops and entered the supermarket. I bought the cocoa, returned home and finished making the cake. We then moved to Queensland where my nearest shop was a 20 minute drive.

I remember the ladies at the church trying to be helpful and telling me to make sure I had plenty of flour in case there was a flood. I had no idea why I would need flour during a flood. The only picture that came to mind was people on television making sand bags to keep the water out of their homes and I wondered if flour could be used as some sort of sand bag. This didn't seem likely so I didn't buy flour. I eventually found out that the flour was to make bread if the roads were flooded and I couldn't get to the shops. I thought, "Wouldn't I need yeast for that?"

God was kind. When we were flooded in for several days, I had been shopping the day before the rain started.

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Saturday, June 11, 2016

Devotional Thought : Leviticus 2:2

The priest shall take a handful of the flour and oil, together with all the incense, and burn this as a memorial portion on the altar, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the LORD. Leviticus 2:2

(From Constable's Commentary) "By offering this sacrifice, the offerer was saying that he viewed all the work that he did as 'an offering to the Lord'. The meal offering appears to have been acceptable only when offered along with the burnt offering. This requirement taught that one's works were acceptable to God only when they accompanied the offerer's consecration of himself to God."

From the beginning, God was seeking to teach his people that our works aren't an acceptable way of atoning for our sins. It's remarkable that people never really believe this and generation after generation continue to look for ways of relieving guilt feelings by performing either penance or works of service.

Seeking God for forgiveness doesn't occur to us because it doesn't seem just to receive something as precious as forgiveness for free. Besides, we are looking for ways to feel better without admitting our inadequacies, without losing our self-sufficient attitude and without humbling ourselves. Deep down we think we are able to pay off our sense of indebtedness since our sins aren't that bad and we aren't too far short of God's standard.

God's word paints a different picture. God's holiness is much more intense than we realize and our good works are nothing more than 'filthy rags' (Isaiah 64:6). We are like the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:21-35) who has no idea how much he has been forgiven so he thinks he is able to pay it back.

Forgiveness is available if we are prepare to come to God on his terms. Before offering our work, we offer ourselves.

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Thursday, June 09, 2016

Book Review : The Husband's Secret

The Husband's Secret revolves around three women Cecilia, Rachel and Tess who barely know each other yet are simultaneously experiencing major traumas in their lives, which has been thrust upon them by others. Mostly they are unable to share their problems with others. Their lives overlap in surprising and complex ways and yet Moriarty has managed to confine the drama to just one week at Easter. The book raises a number of ethical dilemmas and one wonders how the story can possibly come to a satisfactory conclusion, but it does. Even so, these ethical dilemmas remain with the reader long after they have finished the book. It is a cleverly written and well planned story with enough realism to be intriguing. It also has some lighter moments which add a touch of humour.

This is the second novel by Liane Moriarty that I've read and enjoyed. She is a talented writer who has a knack of bringing characters to life by writing with profound insight into human thought and decision making processes. She also writes interesting plots with unexpected twists by creating situations with thought provoking ethical and moral predicaments.

Overall a great read.

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Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Blog Tour : Shoes Off, Feet Up

This blog tour is for the poetry book: Shoes Off Feet Up by Ellen Carr. This book is part of a blog tour organized by Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance


6 -10 June


is introducing


By HopePost Publishing, 25 November 2015

by

Ellen Carr


About the Book:
Shoes Off, Feet Up: Poems of everyday life and faith invites you to sit down, put your feet up and read awhile. It celebrates life with all its fun and adventures, its blessings and encouragements and its challenges. Some of Ellen's poems touch on the light-hearted and humorous side of life, some rejoice in the joys of life and nature, while others deal with the deeper issues of living with faith in God.

You are invited to dip into this book and find some treasures. You will be blessed, encouraged and amused by these poems, and occasionally you will be challenged. Shoes Off, Feet Up ~ poems you will want to return to again and again.

Ellen Carr is an award winning author who lives in Melbourne, Australia. She writes about life, nature, things of amusement, and of her faith in God. She enjoys seeing the funny side of life, as well as pondering things of more serious importance.


About the Author:
Ellen Carr lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her husband, Rod. She has two adult daughters, Sarah and Alison, who have flown the nest. When she isn’t busy writing, Ellen delights in pottering about, drinking coffee, singing in a community choir, volunteering as a Christian religious studies teacher, travelling, and spending time with family and friends. A retired teacher, Ellen has always enjoyed writing. She has written educational material, radio scripts, short stories, and of course, poetry. Writing from her heart, her works are about life, nature, amusing situations, and her faith in God. Her faith and her daily walk with God are high priorities in her life, followed by family, friends and fun.

Many of her award-winning poems and stories have been published at FaithWriters.com, an online Christian writers’ website, and some poems appear in Glimpses of Light, an Australian anthology, which raised money for CBM (formally Christian Blind Mission).

Several of her pieces will appear in the upcoming series, Mixed Blessings. Her poem, Twelve Long Years, included in this collection, was awarded a Judges’ Commendation in the Tabor Adelaide Creative Writing Awards competition.

In addition, her poems have been read on the radio program, Songs of Hope, on 88.3 Southern FM, in Melbourne, Australia. She also wrote the lyrics for a song, The Peace of God, played on that same station. Other poems have appeared in church news sheets, religious educational material, magazines, and on Ellen’s blog.

You can find more of her work, and a link to her blog, at her website: Ellen Carr, Postbox Poetry and HopePost Publishing, at: postboxpoetry.wordpress.com.

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Saturday, June 04, 2016

Devotional Thought : Leviticus 1:4, 9

You are to lay your hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on your behalf to make atonement for you…the priest is to burn all of it on the altar. It is a burnt offering, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord. Leviticus 1:4, 9

The Israelites were to bring a whole animal to be burnt on the altar as a sacrifice. In this culture meat was a luxury so to burn a whole animal was costly. To our Western mind set this seems excessive, but probably not as much to these Israelites who were accustom to the elaborate pagan rituals of the nations surrounding them.

However it illustrates an important point that worship involves sacrifice. David understood this and much later when Araunah offers him his threshing floor and oxen for free, David responds, "I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing" (2 Samuel 24:24).

It's a challenge for us today. So often we attend worship services or other church activities and believe we have worshipped, yet the cost has been trivial – a little time, a little money, a little petrol but nothing in comparison to the cost of a whole bull.

Paul tells us that our proper worship is to offer ourselves – our bodies, our lives, everything we have as 'living sacrifices' (Romans 12:1). This is not to be seen as excessive but as reasonable because of God's mercy. If we think it's excessive it is because we underestimate God's mercy towards us.

God has been so good to us, desiring us to be in relationship with him, sending his Son so reconciliation could take place and continuing to show us favour and blessing. Anything we do for God is minor in comparison.

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Thursday, June 02, 2016

Quote by Lauren Winner

This is an insightful quote about laughter from Lauren Winner's book, Wearing God. My book review is here:

'…the laughter of God is inseparable from God's justice. In the here and now, the kind of laughter that friends of God pursue is laughter that is proleptic—laughter that hints at, or partakes of, the world to come. The best laughter now is laughter that bespeaks a heaven in which those who have been made to weep by earthly rulers will, in the fullness of time, heartily laugh. In other words, laughter is political. Laughter arranges power, and God provokes us to laugh as testimony—testimony to our belief in a God who is ruling over a calamitous or oppressive situation, despite all sign to the contrary.

…Laughter indeed relieves stress and forges bonds. But it is also a sign of defiance, a sign that the ruler who rules unjustly is not ultimately in control.

~ Wearing God by Lauren Winner pg. 190-192

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