Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The work of believing

"Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. As a result, many of them believed" (Acts 17:11-12).

"You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life" (John 5:39-40).

What made the difference between the Bereans and the Pharisees? Both studied the Scriptures but with completely opposite outcomes. The Bereans were prepared to re-evaluated their beliefs in relation to it, whereas the Pharisees weren’t.

It is not enough to study the Scriptures, we need to believe. Jesus said in John 6:29 "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." Many Bereans did the work of God, they believed in the one God sent. They came to Jesus and received life. Sadly the Pharisees refused to do this, though they had every opportunity to do so.

Let's do the work of believing and be blessed, because though we have not seen, we believe (John 22:29).

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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Devotional Thought : Numbers 29:7

On the tenth day of this seventh month hold a sacred assembly. You must deny yourselves and do no work. Numbers 29:7

"Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me" (Mark 8:34).

Denying ourselves is both an Old and New Covenant instruction. This verse in Numbers adds, "do no work". It's surprising how much we struggle with a God who tells us to stop work, even for a day. You would think that God telling his people to rest would be cause for delight, but we find the Israelites often disobeyed this commandment.

There are many reasons for this. Through work, we gain a sense of pleasure and feelings of success, and not working denies us this enjoyment. Often our self-esteem is connected with our achievements. We feel good about ourselves when we consider our accomplishments, but no matter how much we achieve it will never feel like it's enough. We have to keep achieving to maintain our self-esteem.

Stopping work is a way of denying ourselves. It reminds us that the world will continue quite happily without our contribution. It makes us realize we aren't self-sufficient as we'd like to think, and it causes us consider other worthwhile things we could do with our time.

Many world religions are wholly focussed on fasting, denying of pleasures, and the serious pursuit of an ascetic lifestyle. Whereas Christianity, although it includes denying yourself, also includes much feasting and celebration. Our celebrations around Christmas and Easter are often about eating special treats—turkey, pudding, chocolate, hot cross buns.

Denying ourselves is an attitude that we develop as we realize our need for self-esteem is met in God. Therefore we don't need to be focussed on ourselves, and we can take time to celebrate.

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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Quotes from John Powell

Some quotes from Happiness is an inside job by John Powell. John assumes that happiness is a natural condition, and advocates the following practices:

Practice 1 We must accept ourselves as we are
Practice 2 We must accept full responsibility for our lives
Practice 3 We must try to fulfill our needs for relaxation, exercise, and nourishment
Practice 4 We must make our lives an act of love
Practice 5 We must stretch by stepping out of our comfort zones
Practice 6 We must learn to be "goodfinders"
Practice 7 We must seek growth, not perfection
Practice 8 We must learn to communicate effectively
Practice 9 We must learn to enjoy the good things of life
Practice 10 We must make prayer a part of our daily lives

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

God Has All Time In The World

God has all the time in the world. He is never rushed, fluttered or in a hurry. He is patience and long suffering. So much so some believe he will never act. In the Old Testament we find the Jews devastated when they were exiled to Babylon (Psalm 137). Despite centuries of warnings from the prophets the people thought that because God was slow in acting that he would not act at all. They did not realize God's patience was intended to lead them to repentance Romans 2:4).

God's patience is also seen in other places. Jezebel in the Old Testament was a particularly evil woman. She liked to kill God's prophets (1 Kings 18:4). In the letter to the church at Thyatira contained in Revelation 2, we are told there was someone leading the church astray who is referred to as Jezebel. This probably wasn't their real name but rather a description of their behaviour. John records Jesus' words, '“I have given her [Jezebel] time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling”' (Revelation 2:21). Even someone as evil as Jezebel is given time to repent. Nevertheless if she doesn't repent consequences will follow.

From a human perspective we often struggle with the timing of how to respond to a 'Jezebel' type character. Sometimes we give them no time to repent or we give them too much time and never call them to account.

However the main point here is how amazingly patient and gracious God is in waiting for people to see the error of their ways and repent. We see it over and over again. God said he would not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah if he could find only ten righteous people (Genesis 18:32). God sent Jonah to Ninevah, a brutal and violent people, saying ". . . should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people" (Jonah 4:11). Do we really appreciate the length of God's patience? Or do we take it for granted and expect God to wait indefinitely? God always gives us enough time to change our minds and repent but there comes a time when God says, "enough". "My Spirit will not contend with humans forever" (Genesis 6:3).

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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Devotional Thought : Numbers 28:2

Give this command to the Israelites and say to them: "Make sure that you present to me at the appointed time my food offerings, as an aroma pleasing to me." Numbers 28:2

The list of offerings in this chapter is overwhelming. Sometimes we may feel that we make great sacrifices to live for God, but these are so insignificant when we look at the extensive sacrificial system in the Old Testament. The Israelites were not a prosperous community and eating meat was a luxury. What was the purpose of all these offerings?

God was impressing upon them the outrage of their sins when compared to the holiness of God. In Galatians 3:24-25 (NIV 1984) we read, "So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law."

The laws God gave were intended to show that the offense of our sins is so great that we would never be able to repay God. We need a Saviour. However, at this early point in the Israelites history, they had no idea of how offensive their sin was to God. So the continual offerings sought to demonstrate this, and teach them the immense holiness of God.

Today, I wonder if we realize the great offense our sin is to God? If we have been a Christian for a while, we may take Jesus' sacrificial death for granted. It was 2,000 years ago after all. Nevertheless our sin is still obnoxious to a holy God. The provision of a Saviour is God's greatest blessing to us. Not only are we relieved of the burden of continuously making sacrificial offerings, but we live free from the guilt of past sins.

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Knowing God

"I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" (Philippians 3:8).

Paul’s number one priority was knowing Christ; not knowing about him in an intellectual way, but knowing him in a personal or intimate way. While it is good to read Christian books and study theology, this should not be a substitute for deepen our relationship with the Lord. Head knowledge is good but heart knowledge is better.

Moses had the same priority. In Exodus 33:13 he prays—teach me your ways so I may know you. If we are to learn God’s ways it automatically implies that we will have to give up our own ways. Our ways of responding, our ways of doing things, and our ways of understanding a situation.

When I first started reading the gospels as a young Christian, Jesus always surprised me. He never responded to people the way I expected him to. He was often angry and harsh with the Pharisees, the religious people of the day, yet he was kind and compassionate to people like the woman at the well, who had had five husbands.

As a young Christian I thought getting to know Jesus was very risky. You never knew what he was going to do next. But I’ve learnt that because he loves me, he only wants what is best for me.

Let’s take the risk and pray—teach me your ways Lord, so I may know You.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Book Review : 7 Women

I enjoyed reading 7 Women : and the secret of their greatness by Eric Metaxas, though I’m not sure I discovered their secret to greatness, except that they followed the call of God on their life.

The seven women are Joan of Arc, Susanna Wesley, Hannah More, Maria Skobtsova, Corrie ten boom, Rosa Parks and Mother Teresa. A couple of these women I was very familiar with, others I’ve never heard of, but all faced significant obstacles and challenges as they pursued their calling.

As someone who likes to write, I found Hannah More the most inspiring because she impacted the world mostly through her writing. I’ve heard Susanna Wesley’s story before but I was surprised by the number of apparently unnecessary difficulties she face, especially those caused by her husband. Joan of Arc was remarkable for one so young, yet so determine to fulfil God’s plan. It was interesting reading Rosa Park and then Mother Teresa immediately after each other, because the call of God on their lives was almost opposite. Rosa felt called to stand up for the rights of oppressed people, whereas Mother Teresa mostly cared for the oppressed and afflicted, without stand up for their rights. Later in her life, she did travel widely and speak to various high profile people, but mainly her ministry was caring for the poor. Maria Skobtsova was a remarkable nun, which was surprising given her unlikely background. Like Corrie ten Boom she helped the Jews during World War II, and paid the price for doing so.

This is an easy to read, well written account of seven amazing women.

A good read.

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Saturday, February 11, 2017

Devotional Thought : Numbers 27:5

So Moses brought their case before the Lord. Numbers 27:5

It is impossible to create laws that cover every possibility. Later the Pharisees would try to do this and even today Orthodox Jews have lists of numerous activities that one cannot do on the Sabbath. For example, some hotels in Israel automatically stop at every floor on the Sabbath so that no one has to do the 'work' of pushing the button. With every new invention new regulations have to be made. It is cumbersome, burdensome, tedious and not what God intends.

In Moses day when the people had a problem that wasn't covered in the laws, Moses went to God and this became a precedent for future cases. Under the new covenant many things are not covered and some things that once were, no longer are, like eating 'unclean' animals. However when God gives us guidance, it don't necessarily become precedents or applicable to everyone else—as much as we would like this to be the case.

God's way of guiding and directing us under the new covenant is by a sense of conviction, a sense of peace about a particular course of action or a 'knowing' that comes because God has written on our hearts. "This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people" (Hebrews 8:10).

Yet his direction is not the same for everyone. It depends on his plan for our life, the witness he wants us to be, and the culture in which we live. His laws help us to understand what honours him but we are to be a Spirit-lead people.

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Thursday, February 09, 2017

Book Review : Once Confronted

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 enjoyed Once Confronted by Lynne Stringer, though it did take a little while before it really engaged me. The event that triggered the story happens early on in the book, but then it is important, in order to maintain the reality of the story, to move forward in time. However, this part of the story seemed a bit 'jumpy'. Nevertheless, once I was past that, I really connected with the main character, Maddy and felt Lynne did a great job of describing her internal conflict, which was triggered by a number of events. Likewise Evan, who comes across as totally believable.

The story is the journey of two people after they are confronted with a traumatic situation and the different paths they take. Through the story, Lynne is able to raise the issues of forgiveness, post-traumatic stress disorder and domestic violence. These are all handled with sensitivity and good insights. There was no Christian material in the book, but the subtle message of forgiveness was apparent. I was glad the story didn't develop into a romance novel, as that would have seemed contrived. Yet, the hint of romance made it interesting.

The book is well-written and easy to read, with enough description to make it easy to visualise without being long-winded.

A great read.

Thanks to Rhiza Press for providing a free book for review.

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Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Blog Tour : Once Confronted

This blog tour is for the novel: Once Confronted by Lynne Stringer. This book is part of a blog tour organized by Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance

My book review is here.

6 – 10 February

is introducing

Rhiza Press, 1 October 2016


Lynne Stringer

About the Book:
After a normal day turns disastrous, Madison Craig tries to put her life back together. She’s jumping at shadows and finds even familiar places terrifying. Can she forgive the men who hurt her?

Her friend Evan Mansfield sees no need to do anything but hate their assailants. He struggles with bitterness, but Maddy wants to move on. What will she do when one of the men asks for forgiveness?

About the Author:
Lynne Stringer has been passionate about writing all her life, beginning with short stories in her primary school days. She began writing professionally as a journalist and was the editor of a small newspaper (later magazine) for seven years, before turning her hand to screenplay writing and novels.

Lynne is the author of the Verindon trilogy, a young adult science fiction romance series released in 2013. Her latest novel, released in October 2016, is Once Confronted, a contemporary drama. Visit www.lynnestringer.com for more information.

Lynne is the author of the Verindon series including The Heir, The Crown and The Reign.

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Saturday, February 04, 2017

Devotional Thought : Numbers 21:21-22

Israel sent messengers to say to Sihon king of the Amorites: "Let us pass through your country. We will not turn aside into any field or vineyard, or drink water from any well. We will travel along the King’s Highway until we have passed through your territory." Numbers 21:21-22

King Sihon refused to allow the Israelites to pass through his country. He then lost the battle that followed. This incident had a profound effect on the surrounding nations. Years later this is what Rahab told the Israelite spies: "We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below" (Joshua 2:10-11).

After the battles we read, "Israel settled in the land of the Amorites" (Numbers 21:31). It is not clear how long the Israelites stayed, but later in Numbers 32 we see that two and a half Israelite tribes asked to be given this land, on the east side of the Jordan, as their inheritance.

These people had not even seen the land west of the Jordan, but because this land was suitable for livestock they wanted it (32:4-5). It was part of the land that God promised Abraham, but not part of God's immediate plan for his people. They were granted permission but history would suggest it wasn't the best plan.

One victory and these people were satisfied. But God has so much more he wants to give, if we are open to receive.

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Thursday, February 02, 2017

Quote from Hybels & Mittelberg

Quote from Becoming a Contagious Christian by Bill Hybels and Mark Mittelberg

"Before you'll be able to initiate these kinds of discussions, you must start with the heart-felt assurance that not only is your life better now than it was before you knew God, but the lives of others will be better, too, even through the tough times."

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