Saturday, August 29, 2015

Devotional Thought : Isaiah 23:18

Yet her profit and her earnings will be set apart for the Lord; they will not be stored up or hoarded. Her profits will go to those who live before the Lord, for abundant food and fine clothes. Isaiah 23:18

God's blessings are never intended to be stored up or hoarded. God is generous. He provides us with abundant grace (Romans 5:17); he freely pardons (Isaiah 55:7); he lavishes us with love (1 John 3:1). His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). His love and grace are never in short supply.

Unlike the people of the world who store up and hoard their wealth because they live in fear of unexpected disasters or unforeseen tragedy. They look for security in their possessions. God's people can afford to be generous because their trust is in God who is never surprised by the future. He knows how to protect and provide for his people.

This verse tells us that God's blessing may even extend to abundant food and fine clothes! God is not in poverty and as his people, especially in Western society, we discredit him when we portray ourselves as poor. We are greatly blessed including financially, and what we call a lack of money is simply a choice of our monetary priorities.

Many will tell you they cannot afford a night out, a ticket to the theatre, or maybe a holiday, but certainly they have enough money to have their TV fixed, own a pet, or buy their lunch. We present a picture of shortage when we say, "I can’t afford to." Perhaps it would be more honest to say "it isn’t a priority for me right now."

Those outside God's family store up and hoard but God's people can afford to be generous and share, thereby reflecting God's generosity.

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Book Reveiw : A Simple Blessing

Michael W. Smith is a Christian musician who travels the world performing concerts. In his travels more and more he found himself listening to people facing many of the problems that are rampant in Western culture—divorce, bankruptcy, addictions. It seemed that being a Christian wasn't making a difference because Christians have bought into the self-gratification thinking of their day. Although Smith was happy to pray for people, he began wondering if there was more he could be doing. He decided to start praying a blessing at the end of his concerts. He knew that praying in public was not a more effective way to pray but hoped that those being prayed for would realign themselves with more godly values.

Smith was surprised at the response to his prayer of blessings as people were being touched and helped in larger numbers that he ever anticipated. As a response he has put together this short book, A Simple Blessing: The Extraordinary Power of an Ordinary Prayer, with the help of Thomas Williams. The book is easy to read and explains each of the statements in the prayer adding more details and the change of focus Smith is hoping to achieve in his readers.

Smith is at pains to explain there is no magic in the prayer. It is about our heart attitude. Do we want to renew our thinking and readjust our lives to the priorities and values of the Bible? Do we want to be channels of God's blessings rather than just stagnating lakes?

A thought provoking read.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Unique!

A friend of mine once told me she believed that God created the human species and then left it to run its own course. It sounded like God lost interest in his creation and left us to muddle through with our own resources. I was horrified.

Nevertheless it is a convenient belief and would solve a lot of theological dilemmas. It would mean we wouldn't have to struggle to understand why God would allow some people to be born in atrocious situations or as a result of rape, or why God allows scientists to create and destroy life in a science laboratory.

I was much relieved when I realized the Bible teaches that God did indeed create individuals. He told Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations" (Jeremiah 1:5). David records something similar in Psalm 139:13-16. God was with us in our mother’s womb. He knew all about each of us before our mothers even knew we were on the way. God creates us and loves us as individuals.

While this means we have to think through some tough moral dilemmas, it also assures us no one is an accident. A person may have been unplanned in our economy, but they were never unplanned in God’s. We are his unique creation, created for a relationship with him.

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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Devotional Thought : Isaiah 17:7-8

In that day people will look to their Maker and turn their eyes to the Holy One of Israel. They will not look to the altars, the work of their hands, and they will have no regard for the Asherah poles and the incense altars their fingers have made. Isaiah 17:7-8

What is the first thing we do when we receive bad news? Do we look to our Maker and turn our eyes to the Holy One? Or do we look to our own resources to provide help, comfort or escape? Do we pick up the phone and ring a friend or family. Do we pour ourselves a drink, take a pill or eat to dull our pain? Do we lose ourselves in computer games, television shows or a book? Or maybe we bury ourselves in our work. Whatever we turn to tells us what we are worshipping.

These days idols come in many different guises and sometimes are hard to recognise because in moderation they are a good thing. Sharing burdens with our friends and relatives is healthy. Eating and drinking are fine in moderation. Watching television or reading a book are good ways to relax. Working hard is admirable. Yet these good things can become idols if we rely on them for support or expect them to meet our needs.

In this verse, the point of this coming invasion is to make God's people look to him. He allows suffering in order that people turn to him, without relying on their own self-sufficiency. Acknowledging their own resources are not adequate.

On the cross, God showed us how much he was prepared to reach out to us. With great love, he forgives our self-sufficiency and allows whatever he must so we will look to him. He alone is the all-sufficient One.

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Book Review : A Doubter's Guide to the Bible

A Doubter's Guide to the Bible is written for those who have doubts about the truth of the Biblical account. However as someone who trusts the Bible, I also benefitted from the teaching in this book. Dickson presents an overview of the Bible touching on those passages that cause the most angst, such as creation, the violence in the Old Testament, Jesus' kingdom bringing peace etc.

Dickson points out the difficulties of context—we are reading a book written thousands of years ago, yet most people read nothing else from this time period. We are also reading a book made up of many different genres and these must be read as they were intended.

Dickson helped me see the Bible from the wider perspective of the overarching themes and how many of the difficulties make sense when you look at the overall aim and purposes of God. For example, I liked the way Dickson explained the violence we find in Joshua. He pointed out that if we believe the Bible's descriptions of the violence then we must also believe the Biblical reasons for that violence, which has nothing to do with ethnicity, but with God's justice.

Included in the book are many recommendations for further reading. These are placed within the appropriate topics with a brief overview outlining the level of detail. This makes the book an even more helpful resource as it allows the serious thinker to do the necessary research to satisfy their own needs.

An enlightening read.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

No one is an accident

A friend of mine once told me she believed that God created the human species and then left it to run its own course. It sounded like God lost interest in his creation and left us to muddle through with our own resources. I was horrified.

Nevertheless it is a convenient belief and would solve a lot of theological dilemmas. It would mean we wouldn't have to struggle to understand why God would allow some people to be born in atrocious situations or as a result of rape, or why God allows scientists to create and destroy life in a science laboratory.

I was much relieved when I realized the Bible teaches that God did indeed create individuals. He told Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations" (Jeremiah 1:5). David records something similar in Psalm 139:13-16. God was with us in our mother’s womb. He knew all about each of us before our mothers even knew we were on the way. God creates us and loves us as individuals.

While this means we have to think through some tough moral dilemmas, it also assures us no one is an accident. A person may have been unplanned in our economy, but they were never unplanned in God’s. We are his unique creation, created for a relationship with him.

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Saturday, August 15, 2015

Devotional Thought : Isaiah 14:14

I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High. Isaiah 14:14

Geoffrey Grogan writes, "It is a strange paradox that nothing makes a being less like God than the urge to be his equal, for he who was God stepped down from the throne of his glory to display to the wondering eyes of men the humility of God (Phil 2:5-8)." To the human mind it seems such a contradiction that to make oneself like God actually means to be humble.

The temptation to be God's equal goes back to the Garden. "For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:5). Adam and Eve wanted to be like God. Likewise we often want to the god of our own lives, determining for ourselves what is good and evil, running our lives and our little worlds for our own benefit, and being reliant on our own resourcefulness.

However Philippians 2:5-8 tells us to have the mindset of Christ, "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!"

Jesus did not take advantage of his equality with God because that's not how God operates. It's not his nature or mode of operation to overpower us with his authority or compel us by force. Rather he comes to us humbly, identifying with us and taking upon himself our humanity.

If you want to be like God, be humble.

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