Saturday, December 24, 2016

Happy Christmas

Susan Barnes taking a short break from blogging
This will be my last post for 2016 as I will be taking next week off from blogging and spending time with family and friends. I'll be back in the new year.

I'd like to wish everyone who passes by here a blessed Christmas. Hope to see you in the new year.

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

God is generous

Happy people are generous people. God, in his generosity has given us a gift beyond description, Jesus, the most expensive gift that could ever be given. In giving Jesus, God gives us himself. Paul writes: "Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!" (2 Corinthians 9:15). The magnitude of God's generosity is beyond measure.

God did not send Jesus because he was under an obligation to send a Saviour, or because he was under pressure to solve the sin problem. He was not coerced, cajoled or conned. He was not required to do anything about the conditions that sin created. After all God is Sovereign and free to do as he pleases. Yet sending Jesus shows us God's generous heart.

A generous, happy heart doesn't discount pain. Amidst the excitement of that first Christmas with angels appearing and shepherds praising God, we also find a prophesy regarding pain. "Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: 'This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel…And a sword will pierce your own soul too'" (Luke 2:34-35). Yet this had not stopped the angel telling Mary, "you have found favor with God" (Luke 1:30) nor from the angels telling the shepherds, "I bring you good news of great joy" (Luke 2:10).

In the parable of the prodigal son it is recorded that the father said to his eldest son, "But we had to celebrate and be glad" (Luke 15:32). Yes, there are times when we have to celebrate and be glad, regardless of what else is going on in our lives or in the world and when we do, we reflect the generous heart of God.

This Christmas, let's celebrate and be glad.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Book Review : The Mighty Mighty King

The Mighty Mighty King by Penny Morrison is a delightful rhyming book based on the Christmas story. Penny has suggested actions for the children to do while the story is being read to encourage their engagement and I can see this working well.

Lisa Flanagan has done a great job with the illustrations. They add feeling and depth to the story as well as realism. For example the picture of the wise men's arrival is depicted in a house not a stable and Jesus is no longer a newborn. This is in line with the Biblical account.

I also like the way the book deals with the purpose of Jesus' coming to earth and even mentions his death. So often in Christmas books Jesus' birth gets isolated from his mission.

Overall a terrific book for children.

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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Devotional Thought : Numbers 7:12-17

The one who brought his offering on the first day was Nahshon son of Amminadab of the tribe of Judah. His offering was one silver plate … one silver sprinkling bowl … finest flour mixed with olive oil … one gold dish … incense; one young bull, one ram and one male lamb … one male goat … oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs ... This was the offering of Nahshon son of Amminadab. Numbers 7:12-17

Children love repetition. They want the same stories read every night, the same songs and the same coloured cup for their drink. However as they grow repetition becomes boring and by the time they are young adults they are looking for the latest fashion, fresh ideas and new adventures.

Reading this chapter in Numbers though, you get the impression God loves repetition. Each tribe brought exactly the same offering and God had his scribe write down each item twelve times!

From God's perspective every item was important and worth recording because it was a gift given freely from a group of people who were expressing their devotion to God in the early days of their relationship. Later the Lord would say about this time: "I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the wilderness, through a land not sown" (Jeremiah 2:2-3).

Likewise God delights in every offering and sacrifice that we make for him. Perhaps not those made out of duty, but those given in love from a grateful heart are precious to him.

Constable in his Commentary writes: "Where people are conscious of the blessing of God in their lives, they will give spontaneously—and keep on giving. Finance in the church is directly related to faith and consecration."

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Expectation and Desire

Some years ago, when I saw the movie, Prince Caspian, the second in C. S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, I was struck my Lucy's comments when she sees Aslan, the character who represents Jesus. She sees him in the distance but the others don't. When they ask her why they didn't see him, Lucy gives two answers. "Maybe you weren't looking for him," and later, "Maybe you don't want to see him."

These two answers may also be the reasons we don't hear from God as often as we would like. We may not be expecting God to speak into our lives or we may not want him to speak into our lives.

Expectation is closely linked to faith. If we come to a prayer time or even a church service with little expectation God is going to say anything to us, then we are unlikely to experience God's direction or guidance. We know "he rewards those who earnestly seek him" (Hebrews 11:6) rather than the casual enquirer.

Alternatively we may not want God to speak into our lives. We need to trust in God's character, knowing He is a good God who loves us deeply. May we learn from Lucy, the importance of both expecting and desiring to hear from God.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Clash of the Titles Champion

Kara Isaac is the latest winner of the Clash of the Titles, click here for the other entrants.

Congratulations to Kara Isaac, with 
Can't Help Falling


Buy on Amazon
Buy on Barnes and Noble

A funny, heartfelt romance about how an antique shop, a wardrobe, and a mysterious tea cup bring two C.S. Lewis fans together in a snowy and picturesque Oxford, England.

Emelia Mason has spent her career finding the dirt on the rich and famous. But deep down past this fearless tabloid-reporter fa├žade, there’s a nerdy Narnia-obsessed girl who still can’t resist climbing into wardrobes to check for the magical land on the other side. When a story she writes produces tragic results, she flees to Oxford, England—home to C.S. Lewis—to try and make amends for the damage she has caused.

Peter Carlisle was on his way to become one of Great Britain’s best rowers—until he injured his shoulder and lost his chance at glory. He’s determined to fight his way back to the top even if it means risking permanent disability to do so. It’s the only way he can find his way past failing the one person who never stopped believing in his Olympic dream.

When Peter and Emelia cross paths on her first night in Oxford, the attraction is instant and they find common ground in their shared love of Narnia. But can the lessons from a fantasyland be enough to hold them together when secrets of the real world threaten to tear them apart? Cobblestone streets, an aristocratic estate, and an antique shop with curious a wardrobe bring the world of Narnia to life in Kara Isaac’s inspiring and romantic story about second chances.

What Voters Had to Say:

These authors are all a blessing! Please keep writing...You encourage us all!

The cover alone makes me want to read the book, which sounds like a wonderful read. :)

Loved Can't Help Falling. More please! :)

Keep writing, Kara! Love your books!

Kara Isaac, I have just discovered your books and love them. Keep it up! 

I loved Kara Isaac's first book, Close to You, so am really looking forward to reading Can't Help Falling. I enjoy her style of writing. I recommended Close to You to my book club, so hopefully we'll be reading and discussing it sometime in 2017.

I have read, and enjoyed, Can't Help Falling. As far as the covers, I have to vote for this one because what little you see of the guy's face, it looks like my son!!

I won Kara Isaac's Can't Help Falling on a Facebook giveaway and was wonderfully surprised at how much I loved this book! The cover is amazing and it really catches the eye!

Kara has a zany unique writing style that combines substance with heartfelt laughter

I'm not familiar with some of these authors but really like some of them!  Keep up the good work!

Kara Isaac, you have such a gift bringing comedy, romance, and meaning to your stories. I love them!!

Wish I could have picked two books here, because Can't Help Falling caught me just by the description. I'll be looking for this one!

About the Author:

Kara Isaac
Kara Isaac lives in Wellington, New Zealand. When she's not working her day job as a public servant, chasing around a ninja preschooler and his feisty toddler sister, she spends her time writing horribly bad first drafts and wishing you could get Double Stuf Oreos in New Zealand. Her debut romantic comedy, Close To You, released April 2016. Her sophomore novel, Can't Help Falling, releases in October 2016 and is an RT Reviews Top Pick. She loves to connect with readers on GoodReads, Twitter, Facebook and through her website.

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Saturday, December 10, 2016

Devotional Thought : Hosea 2:19-20

I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord. Hosea 2:19-20

Becoming a Christian is like getting engaged. When we say ‘yes’ to a marriage proposal we are making a lifetime commitment. When we say ‘yes’ to God we are also making a lifetime commitment. A wedding service is the conclusion of the engagement. Whereas the wedding of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7 & 21:2) happens in heaven, suggesting that our time on earth is a type of engagement.

God is a faithful partner so we can be secure in the knowledge that God won’t break the ‘engagement’. Yet he will allow us to break it, because true love is not controlling. I've heard some describe the wedding supper of the Lamb and it sounded like an arranged marriage, since in his foreknowledge God knows who will respond to him. However I struggle with this thought.

In the library where I worked we had lots of romance novels and they were not about arranged marriages! Those books were in the non-fiction or biography section. Only love that is freely given and freely received captures our heart and imagination and this is what God does. He seeks to capture our heart with the passion and intensity of his love. He does not coerce or treat us like puppets.

We are to live our Christian lives like engaged people. We are happy to be betrothed to our beloved; we are eager to learn what pleases our Divine Lover; we want to spend time with them not for what they give us but simply for their presence; we look forward to the upcoming wedding; we are excited about spending eternity with them.

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Thursday, December 08, 2016

On Changing Your Mind

No-body has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. John 9:32

It seems people had been cured of blindness which was caused by disease but not those who were born blind. The man who was healed appears to be a "local" as it wasn't long until his parents were summoned before the Pharisees to confirm the healing. Yet even in the face of overwhelming evidence the Pharisees would not believe.

Believing the man had been healed would mean the Pharisees would have to change their minds about Jesus. And believing in Jesus would mean the Pharisees whole social structure would have to change. They could no longer oppress the poor, no longer gain approval for their shallow devotion, no longer put on a show of religiosity, no longer gain financial advantage over others by charging exorbitant prices for temple sacrifices and no longer nullify God's laws by their own traditions.

It would have been a huge reversal for the Pharisees to start acting for the common good rather than lining their own pockets with fame and fortune. The Pharisees realized that Jesus was not just about healing a few sick people. Jesus came to challenge their very life style. He came to rearrange their priorities and give them compassion for the poor. Yet they were unwilling.

May we be open not only to Jesus' healing ways but also to his challenges to our live styles, to our priorities and to the concerns of his heart.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Blog Tour : Heart of the Mountain

This blog tour is for the fantasy novel: Heart of the Mountain by Jeanette O'Hagan. This book is part of a blog tour organized by Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance

5 – 9 December 2017

is introducing

By the Light Books, (1 August 2016)


Jeanette O'Hagan

About the Book:
Twins Delvina and Retza’s greatest desire is to be accepted as prentices by their parents’ old crew when they stumble across a stranger. Trapped under the mountain, young Zadeki’s only thought is to escape home to his kin. Peril awaits all three youngsters. Will they pull apart or work together to save the underground realm?
YA Fantasy Adventure in the lost realm deep under the mountain.

About the Author:
Jeanette O’Hagan first started spinning tales in the world of Nardva at the age of nine. She enjoys writing fiction, poetry, blogging and editing.

She is writing her Akrad’s Legacy Series —a Young Adult secondary world fantasy fiction with adventure, courtly intrigue and romantic elements. Her short stories and poems are published in a number of anthologies including Glimpses of Light, Another Time Another Place and Like a Girl. She has recently published her short novella, Heart of the Mountain and, in Mixed Blessings: Genrellly Speaking anthology, also a flash fiction 'Space Junk'.

Jeanette has practised medicine, studied communication, history, theology and, more recently, a Master of Arts (writing). She is a member of several writers’ groups. She loves reading, painting, travel, catching up for coffee with friends and pondering the meaning of life. Jeanette lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.

Sign up to Jeanette O'Hagan's Newsletter here:
Facebook page:
Twitter: @JeanetteOHagan
Instagram: @bythelightof2moons

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Saturday, December 03, 2016

Devotional Thought : Numbers 1:51

Whenever the tabernacle is to move, the Levites are to take it down, and whenever the tabernacle is to be set up, the Levites shall do it. Anyone else who approaches it is to be put to death. Numbers 1:51

No one was to help the Levites on the threat of death!

This is quite surprising. Surely as Christians we ought to help everyone. Yet here we are told that this particular task was something the Levites had to do on their own.

There are times not to help. We shouldn't help if we are only doing so to make ourselves feel good. We shouldn't help if we are making someone depend on us and they ought to be taking responsibility for themselves. We shouldn't help if this is a task God has given solely to someone else.

Paul teaches the Galatians, "Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" but then adds, "for each one should carry their own load" (Galatians 6-2, 5).

There is a time to carry another's burden when they are weighted down and unable to continue but there is also a time when we carry our own load, we manage our own lighter responsibilities.

In the same passage Paul also says, "Each one should test their own actions" (v. 4). What's our motive for helping? Are we responding to God's prompting? Are we seeking something in return? Even if we are only looking for gratitude, our desire may be to put someone in our debt. It is only God who knows our true motive. If in doubt we can always ask him to show us.

We don't always do people a favour by helping. It requires good discernment to know when to help and when to hold back.

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Thursday, December 01, 2016

Book Review : Boys who Rocked the World

I went looking for Boys who Rocked the World by Michelle McCann after I read Girls who Rocked the World which I wrote about here. This review is very similar.

There are 46 stories of boys who have made a significant impact in lots of different fields. The wide variety of locations, historical settings and backgrounds makes for a smorgasbord of experiences. Like the girls, all the boys had to overcome obstacles, whether they were prejudices, poverty, lack of education or family expectations. They all showed amazing determination and perseverance.

The authors chose boys who had seriously started to have an impact by the time they were twenty. This criteria meant a lot of significant males were left out, especially those whose achievements required years of study. Nevertheless even with this strict criteria the number of remarkable accomplishments especially in those so young is amazing.

Each story is only a few pages long so it is suitable to read to children or have them read it themselves. Some stories deal with quite horrific events such as slavery and war but these were well handled by the author, neither going into unnecessary details but not ignoring the trauma either. My favourite stories were Mozart, Louis Braille, Einstein, Galileo, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

A fascinating read.

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