November News

I like Emily Freeman’s idea of highlighting things we’ve discovered during the month, so these are some of mine for November.

Song: I’ve always loved “Joseph’s Song” by Michael Card, but haven’t found a similar one from Mary’s point-of-view that grabbed me emotionally … until this year. On a Christmas radio-station, I heard Francesca Battistelli’s “You’re Here”, and the words are lovely. If I took part in a musical nativity, I’d love to sing that.

Books: I’ve been getting into Song of Solomon lately – a book in the Bible about King Solomon’s marriage to a peasant woman, which makes me think of the church – the bride of King Jesus. Two books about the song have really helped my understanding of it. I heard about Dee Brestin’s “He Calls you Beautiful” in a Bible Gateway Email and knew straightaway I wanted to read it. It looks at the bride and takes her love in stages: The euphoric first-love; the wedding; the honeymoon … It’s excellent and well worth the money. In the book, Dee talks about James Hudson-Taylor – a man I had heard of at church, who founded a missionary organisation in China in the 1800s. She said Hudson-Taylor had only written one book – and yes, it’s a book on the Song of Solomon. “Intimacy with Jesus” is only short, with six sections and a study guide at the back, but it’s very good. I’ve read a section per day.

Podcast: This month one of my favourite authors, Annie Downs, interviewed Mark Lee – the guitarist from Third Day. You might remember I reviewed his book here awhile back. From reading the book I was impressed with his personality, and he came across just as well talking to Annie. This could also come under ‘Books’ because they discussed several. I’ve never read anything by Madeleine L’Engle, but their conversation made me want to read some of her memoirs, particularly the Genesis Trilogy, where she intersperses her own life-experiences with stories from the book of Genesis.

Films: You get Internet radio-stations now that play Christmas music all year round. I wish there was a TV-channel that did the same with Christmas movies, because I love them. I know; they’re very predictable. As someone said on Facebook, you get a love twist, some sort of misunderstanding and a happy ending, but they make me smile. My favourite of the modern films is still “The Twelve Trees of Christmas”, which from the title doesn’t sound at all like the kind of film I would enjoy, but it’s amazing. “Christmas in the City” is another sweet one I like to watch.

Quote: In my previous post, I mentioned a friend’s dad. Sadly, he had another setback with his health and is no longer on this earth. Jeff’s special and will be very much-missed. I’m glad for him that he’s with Jesus. I don’t understand why he had to go so soon, but a tweet from Lysa TerKeurst this last week has stuck with me. It said this: “We don’t have to have all the answers; we just have to stay connected to the One who does.”

As Advent and Christmas approach, let’s keep making that connection with Jesus, whose birth we’re remembering; who came into the world to show us what love looked like, and to give us hope of a future with Him.

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The Bible – Chapter and Verse

I was reading a devotional today about how Ezra was someone who determined to study God’s Law, to obey it, and to teach it (Ezra 7:10). Are you the same? And do chapter and verse-numbers help or hinder your study? I knew they weren’t part of the Bible until later on, so for instance, I’ve often wondered why John 7 has a verse 53. Why isn’t it the beginning of chapter 8? There’s a post on Bible Gateway I want to share with you, about where chapter and verse-numbers came from. It tells you how to go onto Bible Gateway, take them out and see how it affects your reading. If you try this, I’d be interested to know how you get on.

Books It’s Taking me Ages to Finish

Since about May or June, my Goodreads total has been stuck at 22 books, because there are some I’m in the middle of that just won’t go away!

“Meeting God at Every Turn”

I liked the sound of this and it’s not available on Kindle, so when I found I could borrow it in Braille, I was excited. A famous Christian author (Catherine Marshall) writing about lessons she learnt in life, including the loss of her husband and how she coped – I looked forward to it, but such a disappointment. Really heavy-going. You’d expect it to be a bit old-fashioned with her being a wife in the 1930s, but when she wrote each chapter, she should have imagined having somebody with her who could only stay five minutes!

“She Reads Truth”

Every chapter I’ve read of this has been good, but I’ve only read three so far. It’s not the sort of book where you wonder what’s coming next, and perhaps they could have made it that way. As it’s the stories of two women, starting when they were small and ordering the chapters chronologically might have helped.

“No Compromise”

I’m rereading the life-story of songwriter Keith Green along-with my American friends, but the chapters are lengthy. Voiceover on my phone reads my Kindle books at a fair speed, and I still have to set aside over an hour to get through a whole one. It’s a good book though, and there are things about it I don’t remember from first time around.

“Daily Reflections on the Names of God: A Devotional”

I really like this and would recommend it to any Christian, however long they’ve followed Jesus. The names are in English and Hebrew, with the author taking three days to focus on each one – how it relates to God, ourselves, and others. I wanted to do a name per day, so I’d get through it in four months as opposed to a year, but that really hasn’t worked. I try to follow the Deeper Waters Bible-reading plan too and it’s hard to keep up with both, so this has been put to one side.

* * *

I really hoped to finish these before moving on to anything else, but on Sunday I started yet another book. Any advice on how I can plough through them all?

“You’re Spiritually Immature”

Has this ever been said to you? I certainly don’t like to hear it said of my Christian friends, and yet this is Paul’s verdict on the church in Corinth. “My friends, you are acting like the people of this world. That’s why I could not speak to you as spiritual people. You are like babies as far as your faith in Christ is concerned” (1 Corinthians 3:1). “You are jealous and argue with each other. This proves that you are not spiritual and that you are acting like the people of this world” (1 Corinthians 3:3).

Paul was an apostle. This means ‘Sent one’. He was sent out and planted several churches, including this one in Corinth he was writing to, so he’s like the head of the organisation – the one they would go to with any queries or concerns, and it’s Paul (not just anyone, but a person they respect) who’s calling them spiritual babies. How do they respond? Do they walk away from the church, never to return again? If you read 2 Corinthians, you’ll discover the reasons for Paul’s first letter. “I also wrote because I wanted to test you and find out if you would follow my instructions” (2 Corinthians 2:9). After receiving it, they confronted the wrong in the church and dealt with it. His letter resulted in their spiritual growth.

So, what will we do if someone calls us spiritually immature? Will we dismiss it, or will we take an honest look at ourselves because they meant it for our good?

If you Love the Bible Like Me

I signed up to review “The Most Misused Stories in the Bible” for Bethany House because I love the Bible. I didn’t know what standpoint the author would come from – whether I’d be passionately agreeing or wanting to argue with him. As it turned out, I particularly liked the part at the beginning where he writes that we’re all students of the Bible, and we may want to argue certain of his points. It takes humility to say that.

On the whole, I thought the book was very good. He helps you to think deeply about the stories and what they teach, and there are some great principles on interpreting the Bible in his conclusion. The author says he’s the type of person who likes a debate; well, the chapter I’d want to debate most with him would be chapter 11, but he seems a very genuine man who wouldn’t mind that.

I’d recommend this book if you love the Bible, too. I’d quite like to read another of his, “Love That Rescues”, but sadly it’s not available on Kindle.

Thorn Thursday

A few years ago, a friend sent me a very good talk by Hal Lindsey called “The Week that Changed the World”. What Hal basically says is that rather than Jesus dying on Friday, He actually died on Thursday because there were two Sabbaths in a row that week – the Passover Sabbath and the regular, weekly Sabbath. I’ve been reading Mark’s gospel recently where we have an account of Palm Sunday, Monday, and up to Tuesday night, then it jumps to the Passover meal Jesus eats with His friends. Why shouldn’t that have taken place on Wednesday, followed the next day by His crucifixion?

There’s another reason I believe this – because Jesus Himself said: “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40). Three days and three nights? Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday night, and on Sunday He rose again. It all makes sense, but we can witness to His death any time we like. The important thing is that we remember it. I have no problem doing that with other Christians on the Friday, even though I think it’s a day too late.

Because He wore that crown of thorns for us, maybe instead of Good Friday, we could have ‘Thorn Thursday’.

Poor Zacchaeus

I feel a bit sorry for Zacchaeus. He was from Jericho and a tax collector in Jesus’ time. It’s a bit like being a banker in our time. We might think of bankers as these people who don’t do much and yet still receive huge bonuses, but I’m sure there are some honourable bankers.

Many in Zacchaeus’ profession would have collected taxes for the Romans and taken some extra for themselves. Maybe if people struggled to pay, they made the fines really steep, increasing them on a daily basis. That’s what most people seem to think of Zacchaeus – that he was a liar and a cheat, but …

What if Zacchaeus was an honourable tax collector?

Have you heard his story? When Jesus came to Jericho, Zacchaeus was too short to see over the crowd’s heads, so he climbed a tree. Jesus stopped at the bottom of the tree and beckoned him to come down, inviting Himself to his house. Zacchaeus gladly welcomes Him and hearing the crowd’s complaints, he stands there and says: “I will give half of my possessions to the poor. And if I have cheated anyone, I will pay back four times more” (Luke 19:8).

If I have cheated anyone.

Poor Zacchaeus. All these people, even thousands of years later, thinking he lived his pre-Jesus life as a liar and a cheat, but we don’t know for sure. We know he was wealthy (Luke 19:2), but perhaps he was wealthy simply because of the salary the Romans gave him. Either way, his encounter with Jesus filled him with generosity. How many of us would give half our possessions to the poor?

What if I Destroy Their Faith?

If you’ve got any kind of long-term disability or illness, perhaps you’ve felt the same as me when it came to asking about healing. What if someone has faith to see a healing miracle, but my question weakens their faith? Or worse, what if they’ve prayed for me and when God hasn’t healed, it’s put them off Christianity altogether? I’ve been up for prayer before for my eyesight, which God hasn’t given to me. I’ve no way of knowing the reactions of other people in the room.

When recently I had some questions for my house group, several there being strong in faith, I was hesitant to say anything. Then as we worshipped, these verses came into my head: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). And another: “God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29).

Someone’s faith is a gift that God has given them, and God’s gifts are irrevocable. In other words, they can’t be taken away, so God showed me it was all right to ask my questions. I couldn’t destroy somebody’s faith, because it doesn’t come from humans; it comes from Him.

I hope that encouraged you as it did me.

The Temple and the Spider’s Web: Part 2

Having written about the temple, I’ll now move on to the web. I’ve never taken much interest in a spider’s web, but apparently, the spider is always moving along the edge of it. Then, as soon as a fly goes into the web, the web vibrates and the spider can zoom in and attack.

“Be alert and of sober mind” (1 Peter 5:8). With the Holy Spirit in us, we can be like that spider whose feet are on the edge of the web. As soon as something comes in, it’s captured. We capture the good things from God. It’s the Holy Spirit who (as Berni Dymet puts it) lifts a verse right off the page and plonks it into our hearts, but we can also apply this to any unwelcome intrusions. “We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). As soon as we’re tempted, we can say, ‘No! I’m not doing that, because God says …’ like Jesus when He was being tempted by the devil. Turn these stones into bread? No! It is written: Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:2-4).

Have you ever pictured yourself standing guard at the door to your heart, like a spider on the edge of her web?

The Temple and the Spider’s Web: Part 1

There were two interesting pictures that people in my house group had of the Holy Spirit. I wanted to write them down to remember them, so I thought I’d share them with you at the same time.

First, the temple. “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19). We were created in three parts: Body, soul and spirit. Similarly, the Jewish temple was in three parts: The outer court (where the whole assembly could gather), the inner court (for the priests), and the Most Holy Place (which the high priest could enter once a year).

Our makeup is like the temple. Our physical bodies (the outside of us) can be seen by anyone. When it comes to the inside – our soul (our feelings, our emotions), we’re more selective about what we share and with whom. It’s a more intimate relationship. Beyond that is our Most Holy Place – our spirit communing with God’s Spirit.

Before someone’s a Christian, they’re living by their own thoughts/feelings/emotions, or in the words of my friend: “The spirit has been suffocated by the soul.” When we become Christians, God makes us alive in Christ. Our spirit can connect freely with God’s Spirit and isn’t suffocated/dead anymore.

When Jesus died on the cross, we’re told in three of the gospels (I’m really surprised John doesn’t mention this) that the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The barrier between the inner court and the Most Holy Place was obliterated – a picture of what Jesus has done for us. He’s made a way for our souls to come into the presence of God to find nourishment and strength. Perhaps in his own way, John does point to it because he recorded Jesus’ famous words: “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).