Tuesday, May 31, 2016

How many disciples named Ananias?

God has a habit of putting people on the spot, take Ananias for example. God told Ananias to go and pray for Saul. At the time Saul was persecuting Christians, imprisoning them and making life very unpleasant. God told Ananias that he had given Saul a vision in which Saul had seen a man named Ananias praying for him (Acts 9:12).

How could Ananias refuse?

Though I think I'd be asking God how many disciples he had who were named, Ananias!

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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Devotional Thought : Song of Songs 7:10

I belong to my beloved, and his desire is for me. Song of Songs 7:10

This is intended as a sexual comment, where the woman knows her beloved's desire is for sex. She understands he doesn't want just her body but a relationship with her. The human sex drive is one of the strongest we have.

It's rather odd but God has chosen a man's desire for a woman as the best imagery of God's longing to be in relationship with his people. When God uses imagery in this way it isn't sexual but rather God is using the power of sexual desire to describe the strength of his desire to be close to his people.

Other strong human needs are for food, water and shelter. God chooses to employs these images too: Jesus declared, 'I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty' (John 6:35). 'He who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence' (Revelation 7:15).

God wants his people to know the strength of his yearning to be in relationship with them and to be all that they need. He longs to satisfy us with good things. 'The Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless' (Psalm 84:11).

Likewise he wants us to have the same yearning for him, 'Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled' (Matthew 5:6). Yet often our desire for God is relegated to being less important than our longings for wealth, status and significance. God is not able to satisfy us when we are busy trying to satisfy ourselves with the things of this world.

Let's seek God with wholehearted devotion.

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Book Review : Wearing God

Lauren Winner has chosen an interesting premise for her book, Wearing God. She looks at the various metaphors the Bible uses for God but steers away from the ones we are more familiar with, such as King, Shepherd, Father. Instead she looks at the metaphors of clothing, smell, bread and vine, labouring woman, laughter and flame.

I liked exploring these metaphors as it provided insights into the character of God that I'm less familiar with and perhaps even uncomfortable with. Thinking of God as a labouring woman is quite disconcerting (Isaiah 42:14). However at times I felt, Lauren took the imagery a little too far. She quotes Carolyn Jane Bohler as saying, 'To be useful, a metaphor for God needs to evoke [two] reactions at the same time: "Oh, yes, God is like that," and, "Well, no, God is not quite like that".' I felt Lauren didn't spend enough space on 'God is not quite like that'. This is particularly evident towards the end of her book where Lauren is quoting Biblical passages about Israel being an unfaithful wife and impending judgement. I think it's too much of a leap to refer to God as a 'battering husband'.

Lauren is well-read and likes to quote other authors, particularly long-dead ones. Mostly I found these helpful but I was a little disappointed that she regularly finished a chapter with a prayer from one of these authors. I would have loved to have read her own prayer and therefore for own application of the material she presented. This would have been helpful for me in as I consider how to apply these metaphors to my own understanding of God.

Overall, though an insightful read.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Quotes About Grace

"The entire Biblical revelation affirms that salvation is by grace. … But this revelation is so utterly contrary to the natural heart of man that it must be emphasized again and again, for man always keeps trying to achieve salvation on his own resources. Nothing is so humiliating to his pride as to owe everything to the grace of God alone, and to be able to live only on the basis of his pardon." ~ From God’s unfolding purpose : a guide to the study of the Bible by Suzanne de Dietrich (Westminster Press, 1957).

And a similar thought, "The cost for the recipient of God’s grace is nothing—and no price could be higher for arrogant people to pay." ~ Dan Allender

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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Devotional Thought : Song of Songs 5:3

I have taken off my robe—must I put it on again? I have washed my feet—must I soil them again? Song of Songs 5:3

The idyllic relationship described in the Song of Songs has hit a snag. The woman doesn't want to make an effort for her beloved. She did change her mind but it was too late and he had left (v.6-7).

The poetic nature of these verses make it unclear as to what happened to cause her to lose interest in meeting what seems to be a reasonable request. However human relationships are often not straightforward and any number of things could be going on.

Perhaps she felt taken for granted, that he was only interested in the delights of her body and not her personhood. Perhaps she was upset that he didn't stay with her. It seems they were now married so where had he gone? Possibly it was all a dream since she slept but her heart was awake (v. 2) and she feared losing her beloved.

Whatever the cause, it reveals a universal truth that no relationship is without difficulties, even the wonderful connection described here between the lover and his beloved. People disappoint us. Maybe there are good reasons for the failure. Perhaps they are tired, unwell or experiencing other pressures. When they behave in ways that we don't expect, we may not respond well which compounds the situation.

How do we move forward? The couple in this story move past their disappointments and are able to reconnect again. In our relationships we move forward when we learn acceptance, tolerance and forgiveness. It's a continually process because no matter how well we know someone, things happen that cause them to change.

Let's commit to learning, growing and maturing in all our relationships.

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Book Review : The Promise of Vision

This short little book explains vision and the need for vision in our personal lives and churches. Robinson begins with stories of people with a lack of vision who predicted all manner of dire outcomes which are laughable today. He then moves on to Bible characters who were given a vision from God and achieved great things. People such as Noah, Abraham, Moses and Nehemiah.

Vision keeps us motivated and trusting in God to bring about what is impossible ourselves. Robinson includes some modern day people who changed history with great vision, Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin, Rosa Parks and Nelson Mandela.

In order to get a vision from God requires us to immerse ourselves in God's word, prayer and to survey the needs around about us. When we do receive a vision from God, expect opposition! It is important to not to give up but persist, by continuing to trust God to bring his plans into being.

Robinson has written an easy to read booklet outlining important principles.

A helpful book.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

More on Measuring Goodness

A few more thoughts following on from last week about measuring goodness: In the beginning Adam and Eve lived in communion with God and had no need to measure their spirituality. God even told them not to eat from the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" (Genesis 2:17) because they didn't need this knowledge. Being in relationship with God would be enough to keep them from evil.

However they did eat, and now we tend to measure good and evil. Is drinking alcohol, dating, surfing the Internet, playing computer games good or evil? If we do those things we think are good, we congratulate ourselves and become self-righteous. If we do those things we think are evil, we feel guilty and condemn ourselves. God didn't intend for us to be self-righteous or self-condemning. I've learnt that I cannot measure our spirituality by observable means. I cannot assume spiritual maturity based on my age or on the amount of Bible knowledge I have or on what I do or don't do. It cannot be measured by my actions; if it's measured at all it must be measured by my ability to love.

So there is no need for us to try to impress God, others, or even ourselves. Certainly we go around doing good, like Jesus did (Acts 10:38), but there is no reason for us to measure our goodness.

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