Thursday, October 30, 2014

He feels it too

Saul’s conversion on the Damascus road took place many years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Yet when Jesus confronted him, he asked, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4). Jesus is speaking using the present tense—why do you persecute me? Jesus lives in his followers. This is not some nice theological theory but here we see a very practical application of this truth. Again in the next verse we find Jesus saying, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” When Christians are hurt, persecuted, abused, ridiculed, Jesus feels it too.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Book Review : Blaze in the Storm

Jenny Glazebrook's books remind me of what it's like to be a young Christian and a teenager. Jenny does a great job of capturing the teenager/young adult world with stories that draw you in. Her characters are believable and the settings realistic.

Blaze in the Storm is the first in a series of six which introduces the Clement family. Six new children at school is bound to cause a stir especially with their circus background and their excessive love of horses. Bonnie is drawn to the eldest, Blaze but his overly Christian stance is off putting as he has yet to learn how to express his faith with grace and gentleness.

Jenny is also unafraid of putting her characters in difficult situations which causes them to question their faith. Some of these difficulties are life threatening, others are the disillusionment with other Christians, but all are part of the Christian life. Jenny also understands how God works healing into a person's life which may take years to bear fruit.

This is a great novel for young adults as there is so much for them to identify with from school yard name callers to high achievers to those who are simply bored and enjoy disrupting the classroom.

A great read.

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Devotional Thought : Luke 2:48

When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you." Luke 2:48

Jesus' parents were astonished when they found him in the temple courts, sitting with the teachers listening to them and asking questions (v.46). Were they astonished because they expected to find him playing with the other children, rather than conversing with the adults? Were they astonished because they expected him to be upset about being left behind? Were they astonished because he wasn't concerned about their feelings?

Mary said, "Why have you treated us like this?" As if she sees Jesus' behaviour as a deliberate attempt to cause his parents grief, instead of his curiosity with the things of God. Jesus was twelve and considered an adult in Jewish society. Jesus knew it was time to grow up and start taking his destiny seriously. He needed to learn as much as he could while he was in Jerusalem and had access to the teachers there.

Still I suspect people today still say to Jesus, "Why have you treated us like this?" Why have you allowed this anxiety, this worrying turn of events or this inconvenience? You must have known this situation would cause us to worry unnecessarily. You could have intervened sooner and prevented it? Often we expect Jesus to be more concerned with our comfort than his purposes and then wonder why we feel abandoned.

Yet today we always know where Jesus is. He is with us and in us, even when it seems otherwise. He always cares. Yet his heart is for his father's business, for those things which are important to God. His presence is not merely designed to keep us happy and comfortable.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

God the Enough

Mark Buchanan is one of my favourite authors and I particularly enjoyed his book, The Holy Wild which I have read and reread. I particularly like this story, which I may have mentioned before. It illustrates the importance of understanding that God is enough:

A woman whose husband left her for another woman after many years of supposedly happy married life said this, "In the first year or so after he left, there were many things I thought of doing—selfish, sinful things. But you know what kept me from doing them? Thinking that one day I will stand before God in heaven and to explain to God why living for him, by his strength wasn’t enough."

One of the names of God, El Shaddai, contains the idea that God is enough. Whatever we are going through God is enough. If all we had in the world was God that would be enough. It is a challenging thought. Often we think in order to be happy we need a certain level of material blessing, family, friends, a fulfilling job etc. Yet all these things are temporal and can be lost in minutes. Our only real security is found in God.

God is also the only one who can satisfy our deep longings for significance, fulfillment and value. When things go wrong, remember in spite of everything, God is enough and he will get us through if we will let him help us.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Book Review : Worlds Beyond Words

Worlds Beyond Words by Alison Stokes is a collection of stories about people who have had grown up with learning difficulties, especially dyslexia. Mostly this went undiagnosed when they were children causing much anguish in school and in life. The stories are first person accounts of these struggles.

Yet they are all stories of triumph as they sought help, usually as adults, to overcome their difficulties with reading and writing. For many the battle goes on as they continue to seek to improve their reading skills.

This book is part of the Quick Reads series. Often the writers mention these books in their accounts as being an encouragement in the development of their reading skills, since they are short, often in large print and generally good stories. For a person with dyslexia the challenge of reading a normal length novel can be overwhelming.

This is an enjoyable collection of nine short stories which are quite inspiring as you read about the difficulties people have overcome to achieve their goals.

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Devotional Thought : Psalm 15:5

Whoever does these things will never be shaken. Psalm 15:5

Summarizing the list of behaviours in this Psalm tells us that whoever is kind, speaks the truth, is reliable, keeps their promise, makes an honest living and generally does the right thing is not "shaken". They are not shaken because they don't live in fear of being found out, or worry about something from their past having ongoing repercussions or fear someone they have hurt will retaliate. They can live in peace and not be worried about their past haunting their present life.

These days there are many high profile politicians and corporate leaders who live in fear that something from their past will be dug up by the media. Perhaps they experimented with drugs or excessive alcohol at university, had a sexual or financial indiscretion, lost their temper or behaved badly in a public place. If uncovered the best outcome might be severe embarrassment or the worst scenario might be losing their job.

The world sometimes mocks the way Christians live as if they are strange and deprived because they do not involve themselves in dubious life style choices. They avoid activities which compromise their standards and disadvantage others. They can be relied upon to do what they commit to. Long term Christians can become the best candidates for high profile positions because their employers have less to worry about when the media starts trolling their past.

The Message puts this verse this way, "You’ll never get blacklisted if you live like this." Living a morally sound life is not only God honouring but a sensible way to live. It brings more blessings than we realize and one of them is that we never have to worry about being shunned by people if they discover our past.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

On attaching blame

If you are familiar with Winnie the Pooh you may remember the time Pooh bear visited Owl at his house which was a small wooden bird box perched in a tree. While he was there the wind blew Owl’s house out of the tree. Initially Owl thought it must be Pooh’s fault but when he realized it was not he said, "'If it was the wind,' said Owl, considering the matter, 'then it wasn’t Pooh’s fault. No blame can be attached to him'" (The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne).

This story reflects our desire to know who is to blame when things go wrong. I suspect this is because if we know who is to blame it makes us feel there is at least some measure of control in the unpleasant things that happen. But when random awful things happen, like your house being blown out of a tree, it is disconcerting to realize that no one is to blame. This may translate to, no one is in control and there is no security anywhere.

Fortunately, as Christians we know this is not the case. Even when awful things happen we can rest assured it comes as no surprise to God. We live in a fallen world where sometimes things seem completely out of control. Yet the Bible tells us, "underneath are the everlasting arms" (Deuteronomy 33:27), and in that we can find peace and security.

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