Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Blog Tour : Clash of the Titles

Clash of the Titles


Hot! Hot! Hot!
Vote for your Fave!


Scroll through these FOUR new releases and cast your vote for the one you'd pick up first to read.
I know it's hard!



Fight for Liberty by Theresa Linden

Prompted by the inner voice that has guided her for years, Liberty is compelled to bring the freedom she now possesses to others suppressed by the all-controlling government. While unsure of how to carry out this mission, she is willing to risk all to accomplish it.
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An Elegant Facade by Krisit Ann Hunter

Lady Georgina Hawthorne has worked tirelessly to seal her place as the Incomparable for her debut season; with money and business connections, but without impeccable bloodlines, Colin McCrae is invited everywhere but accepted nowhere. As their paths continue to cross, they both must decide if the realization of their dreams is worth the sacrifices they must make.
~~~~~~


Defying Shadows by Ashley Townsend

Sarah travels back to the twelfth century and discovers that a ghost from her past has returned to Serimone, intent on changing the future. Time is quickly running out to stop him, and her life is put on the line as she must decide between returning to the safety of her world, and entrusting her future with a hero of the past as they attempt to save history.
~~~~~~ 


One Thursday Morning by T.K. Chapin

Running not only for her own life, but that of her unborn baby, Serenah moves across the country to a little town outside of Spokane Washington called Newport. It's here she'll begin to build a new life and go by a different name in the hopes of staying hidden from her abusive husband John. 
~~~~~~

VOTE HERE!


If you have trouble viewing the entire survey, August 2016 Clash Surveyclick here to load a dedicated page to the survey

Update:
Congratulations to T.K. Chapin for winning
this month's Clash crown with:
One Thursday Morning

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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Devotional Thought : Jeremiah 9:25-26

"The days are coming," declares the Lord, "when I will punish all who are circumcised only in the flesh — Egypt, Judah, Edom, Ammon, Moab and all who live in the wilderness in distant places. For all these nations are really uncircumcised, and even the whole house of Israel is uncircumcised in heart." Jeremiah 9:25-26

People sometimes mark their bodies with a tattoo to signify a particular achievement or a significant person. Likewise circumcision signified a person's commitment to God but the physical sign meant nothing if their lives were characterised by immoral living. Even in Jeremiah's time there was an understanding that circumcision needed to be more than physical.

Paul explains in Romans 2, "Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised ... A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code (Romans 2:25, 28-29).

It is the state of our hearts that matters not the external thing we do to our bodies or the activities we engage in but rather our heart attitude toward God.

These days baptism has become the outward sign but the inward change still comes by the Spirit. As we allow God's Spirit to work in our lives his promise is, "I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts" (Hebrews 8:10). We are inwardly motivated to pursue holiness by God's Spirit working in us.

The written code wasn't enough to change people in Jeremiah's time and it's not enough now. We need God's Spirit to write on our hearts.

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Book Review : Gentlemen Formerly Dressed

Gentlemen Formerly Dressed by Sulari Gentill is a murder mystery featuring Rowland Sinclair. It is the fifth in the series. I haven't read any of the others and this was not a problem. Sinclair becomes involved in a murder investigation when he realizes their prime suspect, a young girl, is most unlikely to have committed the crime.

The story is a little slow moving at times, but quite interesting as it is set at a significant time in British history shortly before World War 2. The author has cleverly used this history as a backdrop. I probably would have enjoyed it more if I had a better appreciation of British politics and of the peerage. Many of the characters had more than one name due to the fact they had received a title which was a little confusing at times. Each chapter began with a historical newspaper cutting from the era. Some of these I found added to the story but others were a bit long and distracting. Despite these minor issues I did enjoy the story. The main characters were believable and well-drawn and I found the interplay between characters well done.

I also liked the humour, not that it was laugh out loud funny, but rather subtle and well placed. It kept the book on a light hearted note rather than being bogged down with politics and history.

I read this as part of a book club and overall it was an enjoyable read.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Reciprocation

Once someone unexpectedly gave me a birthday present, my first thought was, when is their birthday? Have I missed it? My reaction wasn't gratitude but reciprocation. It seems to be a natural response to repay people for their kindness, but it's also deeper than that. In my case, I actually don't want to feel indebted to them. Yet, rather tellingly, I don't feel the need to reciprocate if it's my husband or children who unexpectedly give me a gift. My relationship with them is more intimate. I know their heart and their motive. I know they won't take offence if I don't respond in kind.

Likewise our relationship with God is to be on that level of intimacy where we know God's heart towards us. When God gives us the gift of salvation he wants us to accept it the same way as we accept gifts from our loved ones.

He wants our response to be one of love and gratitude, knowing reciprocation is impossible.

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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Devotional Thought : Jeremiah 7:4-5, 7

Do not trust in deceptive words and say, "This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!" If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly… then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever. Jeremiah 7:4-5, 7

King Josiah had been a good king who brought about a number of reforms, restoring the temple and removing idols (2 Kings 23). However these changes did not last after Josiah's death. Judah's repentance was superficial, it wasn't a heart-changing revival. Josiah's reforms restored the ceremonial functions of their beliefs but people were worshipping idols in the privacy of their homes and oppressing the poor (v. 6). Their actions didn't line up with their stated beliefs.

In their misguided thinking they thought God would always protect the temple and this would ensure their own protection. The temple became their object of worship instead of the Lord himself.

Earlier in Jeremiah's prophesies we read: "'In spite of all this [seeing Israel being exiled], her unfaithful sister Judah did not return to me with all her heart, but only in pretense,' declares the Lord. 'The Lord said to me, "Faithless Israel is more righteous than unfaithful Judah'" (Jeremiah 3:10-11).

Israel was "faithless". She didn't cover up the fact she wasn't following the Lord which made her rejection of the Lord at least, honest. Whereas God calls Judah "unfaithful" as she had made a commitment to follow the Lord but didn't. Judah acted as if they were keeping the covenant but it was all a pretence.

God considered Israel more righteous. God prefers honest rejection to people going though outward observances which don't engage their hearts or change their behaviour.

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Book Review : Bounce Back!

Bounce Back by Cheri Meiners is a useful resource for the Bounce Back! program which is run in many schools. I have used this book in my role as a school chaplain and found it explains resilience in a way a child can understand.

The story is loosely set around a girl whose best friend moves away but also shows other situations where resilience is important. Such as when we make a mistake or when someone in our family is sick. The book teaches strategies for dealing with difficult situations, such as thinking about the problem from a different perspective, think of things you are looking forward to and learning to do new things. It conveys the message that resilience is something we get better at as we grow up.

The illustrations by Elizabeth Allen are colourful and clear. They are a good fit with the text and add depth to the story.

Overall a lovely book and a valuable resource.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

What we win them with, is what we win them to

How we became Christians seems to have a big bearing of how we attract others to Christ. People who became Christians at a camp are often keen to become involved in running camps and sometimes even want to run church services in a "camp style". Others who become Christians at large youth gatherings, like Youth Alive, are keen to attend these events and again have a preference for running church services in a similar format to these meetings.

As I have noticed this phenomena, I wondered is it because when we became Christians, at whatever kind of function it was, it was such an impacting time that we continually try to recapture it?

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Saturday, August 13, 2016

Devotional Thought : Jeremiah 5:3

The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. Jeremiah 5:3

The prophets and priests, God's leaders, were preoccupied with their own agendas but God's people 'love[d] it this way'. Self-absorbed leadership isn't healthy but the people didn't want it changed. This is particularly grave. The leadership reflected the heart of the people.

It happens today in churches. Many leadership boards have their own agendas which aren't God initiated. They make comfortable decisions which reinforce the status quo rather than face the challenge of creating a new future in God. And the congregation love it that way. They continually vote or choose the same people to lead them because they don't want to face God's challenges any more than the leadership. The congregation excuses the lack of direction and purpose in the church on the leadership. Meanwhile the leadership blame the congregation for their lack of commitment and support. When new leadership arises they find a culture resistance to new ideas and a group of people happy to cave into church leadership, even if they don't have God's purposes in mind.

As churchgoers we are not always in a position to change the direction of our churches. However there are some things we can do. Importantly we can pray and seek God's direction. Perhaps God is calling us to make a difference by standing for a leadership position. Perhaps God is asking us to be less critical of new styles of worship. Perhaps God is asking us to be more welcoming of young leaders and new ideas.

We often get the leadership we deserve since leadership reflects the heart of the people. Changing leadership begins with changing ourselves.

How prepared are we to seek God and his direction for our churches?

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Book Review : A Pony Called Handy

A Pony Called Handy is a sweet story by Cindy Schulz for children aged 9 to 12. This is Cindy's debut novel and is a straightforward tale of some children who love horses. I know nothing about horses and horse riding but it struck me as being quite an authentic story.

The book revolves around Anna who receives a pony for her tenth birthday. Anna doesn't anticipate the angst that her birthday present will cause amongst her friends. She navigates these relationships with a maturity above her years. The story climaxes with some intense drama and resolves satisfactorily with the opportunity of further adventures for Handy.

At times I found the children's honesty a little contrived but it helped create an understanding of what the children were thinking and feeling, as well as how sibling rivalry can play out.

I liked the picture of Handy on the cover. He looks exactly like the pony that is described in the book. The story is loosely based on Cindy's childhood experiences so perhaps this photo is the original Handy?

Overall it was a fun easy read.

Thanks to Cindy for providing a free copy for review.

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Tuesday, August 09, 2016

On Being Prepared For Newcomers

Would God trust your church with brand new baby Christians?

One of my children was born about two weeks early which was not even considered premature. But it was a shock to me. My previous child had been a week late yet this time I found myself at home with my baby on the supposed due date. It was not like I was unprepared. I had all the necessary clothes and furniture from by previous baby. Yet I felt emotionally unprepared. It took a little while for me to adjust to being a new mum again. In our churches we would do well to consider how prepared we are for new Christians and it really isn't good enough to say when they come we will figure out what to do.

Consider your church service from the point of view of someone who has never been to church before. Would they understand what was going on? Would newcomers feel included? Do people use terminology which is not used outside of church? Events like natural disasters or terrorists attacks often cause people to re-evaluate their priorities. The Sunday after September 11 a number of churches in America suddenly found themselves with lots of newcomers. If a major tragedy occurred in Australia and we found ourselves in a similar situation how would our churches respond? The media and politicians talk about how prepared Australia is for a terrorist attack. It is also a question for churches to address. How prepared are we for an influx of newcomers to our church community? How do we cater for new people in our church services?

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Saturday, August 06, 2016

Devotional Thought : Jeremiah 2:3

"Israel was holy to the Lord, the firstfruits of his harvest; all who devoured her were held guilty, and disaster overtook them," declares the Lord. Jeremiah 2:3

Israel is described as first fruits. This is very instructive and I wonder why the Israelites didn't see themselves this way. Throughout the Old Testament they acted like they had a monopoly on God as his exclusive people. They often overlooked God's mercy to people like Ruth and Rahab who weren't born Israelites. These women experienced God's blessing and came to be included in God's people when they expressed faith in him. God's chosen people wasn't limited to just Israelites, rather they were simply the first to be chosen.

By adopting an exclusive view of themselves the Israelites denied God's purposes of being a light to other nations. Perhaps this is one of the reasons they began to worship pagan gods. They lost sight of their God-given purpose and were deceived into blending in with other nations.

The same thing can happen to God's people today. The church, the body of Christ, is intended to be a light to others but so often we blend in with our culture and value other things more than God. We hang on to the knowledge that we are chosen as if this excuses us from fulfilling God's purposes. We are still called to be a source of truth and light to others.

God's chosen people aren't limited to the church, any more than it was limited to Israel. We are the fruit of other people's evangelistic work and are called to produce more fruit.

Being chosen is not an excuse to alleviate the need to be actively pursuing God's purposes for his church and his world. Rather it is an incentive to be all God intends.

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Thursday, August 04, 2016

Blog Tour : Ehvah After

This blog tour is for the novel: Ehvah After by Rose Dee. This book is part of a blog tour organized by Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance

My book review can be found here.


1 – 5 August


is introducing


(Published: 25th August, 2015)

by

Rose Dee


About the Book:
Ehvah Rowe’s life is in freefall. Her teen queen status is long forgotten, and with a childhood of tragic loss, no family save a diabolical aunt, and no career prospects, her L.A. celebrity world holds no future. It will take a murder, an escape to the Australian tropics, and the friendship of an Aussie bodyguard, for her to discover healing, faith, and a way forward.

David Blake knows how to be a soldier. His army training equipped him to fight and protect. But when it comes to helping a fear-filled celebrity navigate the same post-traumatic stress symptoms he has suffered, David discovers the challenge in forsaking his own strength for God’s plan.

Rose Dee weaves a story of mystery, drama and romance, in her trademark tropical North Queensland Australian style.


About the Author:
Rose Dee was born in Ingham, North Queensland, Australia. Her childhood experiences growing up in a small beach community would later provide inspiration for her first novel. Rose, who holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree, decided to try her hand at writing two years ago. The result of that attempt is her first novel, Back to Resolution. Her novels are inspired by the love of her coastal home and desire to produce exciting and contemporary stories of faith for women. Rose's other releases include Beyond Resolution - the second book in the 'Resolution' series. And A New Resolution the final book in the series. Rose has also co-written a novel in conjunction with three other outstanding Australian Authors: The Greenfield Legacy. Rose resides in Mackay, North Queensland with her husband, young son, and mischievous pup, Noodle.

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Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Religious groups in Jesus' day

Sometimes we think things were so different in Jesus' day, but were they? Looking at the different religious groups that Jesus encountered in Palestine makes one realise that though they had different names, these groups are still alive and well.

The Pharisees were described as middle class—a drive by most church carparks on a Sunday morning would confirm the church in the West is mostly middle class. Yet being a Pharisee was more than economic standing, it was also about attitude. The Pharisees thought their good deeds were enough to make themselves right with God. They didn't think they needed God's grace and mercy. The Pharisees were the religious people of their day, and the church is the religious people of our day. Our reluctance to identify with them may be because Jesus had such harsh things to say to them. Yet Jesus died as much for the Pharisees as for the crowds. While we may prefer to identify with the crowds, even they stopped following him.

The Sadducees didn't believe in divine intervention. Many today don't believe that God would supernaturally intervene in the circumstances of someone's life and bring comfort and healing. Sadducees believed we should not expect anything out of the ordinary from God. This attitude of not needing God and low-level faith is sadly present amongst many in our churches.

The Sanhedrin knew how to use their power for their own means. Unfortunately far too often a church leadership will cave into people like this because they express their opinions in an intimidating and domineering way. There are always people who love power and others who are happy to empower them, as it absolves them of the responsibility of making decisions.

Zealots these days don't come in armed revolt, but we have those who are always ready for confrontation regardless of the opposition. I've heard it said that church meetings are boring if there is no heated debate! Some in our churches have an unhealthy interest in engaging in confrontation. Expressing tolerance is seen as a weakness, rather than as an opportunity to learn from others. Zealots though avoid any sign of vulnerability as if this were a shortcoming.

Essenes were the pacifists, and at the first sign of conflict they decide to stay away, much like those who stay home from church at the slightest sign of conflict. They are not prepared to express an opinion for fear others may disagree.

Which group do you most identify with?

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