Our Father, my Shepherd: “21 Seconds to Change Your World” Book-Review

This was marketed as a book on the Lord’s prayer – how the 21 seconds it takes to say it can benefit us, so I was surprised to discover it included the 23rd Psalm as well. Part one gives an introduction to their authors, Jesus and David. Part two is the substance of the book, where Mark Rutland breaks down the prayer and the Psalm phrase by phrase, and part three lists some ways we can use them in our lives.

I would say this is a worthwhile read for pastors and those in positions of leadership within the church, as well as for Christians in general. One thing that slightly bothered me was the author’s encouraging non-Christians to use the Lord’s prayer. If he believes Jesus’ words in John’s gospel that the Way to the Father is through Him, I don’t know how he can expect those who don’t believe in Jesus to address God as ‘Father’ and be heard, but if you can look past that, “21 Seconds to Change Your World” tells us a lot about these passages of Scripture. I think I’ll be using them more in my prayer-life. I’m grateful to Bethany House for giving me a free copy to review.

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Finding What’s Right in Front of You: “Life Unstuck” Book-Review

Have you ever asked a shop-assistant where something is, only to find it’s right under your nose? Sometimes chinks in our lives are staring us in the face, but we need other people’s help to see them. Reading “Life Unstuck” could be one way of giving yourself that help to put your past behind you, enjoy your present, and look forward to your future.

The author’s introduction made me think this would be a bit heavy, but don’t be put-off. Pat came across as more approachable when she started chapter 1 with a personal story, and there are plenty of these throughout. If you love people, I think you’ll enjoy Pat’s style of writing and willingness to admit her mistakes. If you love the Bible, you’ll appreciate going deeper into the intensely personal Psalm 139, one verse at a time.

This is my Last Day

Over the weekend, I’ve had so many things knocking on the door of my heart. At church yesterday, my pastor talked about Psalm 43 – how loss of hope and isolation were wrong roads to go down. I felt I was losing hope in certain areas of my life, E.G. I have a friend who’s mentally ill; another friend who’s battling, and oftentimes the opponent wins.

I saw a status on Facebook about someone’s 24-year-old husband who died suddenly. He’d just graduated, had a job at the Bible-college and his whole life in front of him. 24! Here I was at 34, feeling like I didn’t have much to offer, and I was alive. He was 24 with a wife, a job and prospects, and his life was abruptly taken from him. God seemed cruel.

In the afternoon, I listened to a podcast. The episode was called “Are you Broken”. In it Jarrod Cooper urged us to have seasons of brokenness, but not to make those seasons our identity – not to live in them our whole lives.

Whilst reading Dawn Camp’s “The Beauty of Grace” ready to review it later this week, I came across an entry about someone who’d had a chaotic time with a trip to an emergency room, a funeral, and Christmas. A jar of strawberry jam fell out of her fridge, and as she eyed the red stickiness and shards of glass, she was reminded of the dawn of redeeming grace – Jesus coming into the mess of our lives.

A friend had invited me to a Bible-study today. One of the questions asked us to think about writing a song: ‘This is my last day’. All these things I was processing from the weekend seemed suddenly to come together about half an hour before I left the house:
This is my last day, this is goodbye
To a time of brokenness;
Though I may feel weak, it’s not my identity –
I don’t want to live there.

I wanna wake up and say
That this is a good day;
I’m putting my hope there in the Lord:
I will trust Him to hide
Every piece of my life
In His redeeming grace
.

This is my last day, this is goodbye
To a time of selfishness;
There is injustice, and there is suffering,
But I will choose to see the best.

Chorus

Why must I go on mourning?
Why is my soul so downcast?
I will yet praise You, Lord.

Chorus

Let’s do This Together: “What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days” (Book-Review)

It’s a real honour to review one of Holley Gerth’s books. If you’ve read here for a while, you’ll know she’s a favourite writer of mine. “What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days” is a 52-part devotional based on the Psalms. I love the Bible, and I love when someone who’s had her share of emotional pain opens it up and finds comfort in it. With 3 Psalms per chapter, you could make it a daily devotional to finish in just less than 2 months, or read 3 Psalms per week and let it take you through the year.

In each chapter, Holley picks out a small portion from those 3 Psalms to explore in more depth. Reading “God Calls You His Own”, I imagine God delighting in me as a parent delights in a new-born baby. You may be better reading a hard copy of this than the Kindle version because after Holley’s thoughts, there are prayers, with space for you to personalise them and to journal what you’re hearing from God. Possibly my favourite of Holley’s books, I’d recommend this to anyone who’d like to see God as more than a distant grandfather-figure. It shows He understands your sorrows and wants to be part of your life. As Holley says, “What if instead of ‘Get it together’, God’s whispering ‘Let’s do this together’?”

5-Minute Friday: Begin

If you’ve been reading here for a while, you’ll know I participate in 5-Minute Friday from time to time. Well, today is a day to say goodbye to its founder, Lisa-Jo Baker, and hello to Kate Motaung who’s taking over from her. I follow Kate’s blog now and am looking forward to getting to know someone who spent years in Cape Town – a place I’d love to visit one day.

Lisa-Jo is seeing this transition not as an ending but a new beginning, and has chosen for her final prompt: Begin. If you’d like to join us, you could write for 5 minutes on ‘Begin’, then go over to Lisa-Jo’s blog and be part of the link-up.
* * *
Begin is one of those words that seems so attractive, that draws you in. A beginning is a blank space waiting to be filled, and nothing before it. The ones who know you from the beginning haven’t known anything before, and really there’s only One who’s known you that long – the One who knitted your body together in your mother’s womb and saw you before you were born.

Wouldn’t it be nice to begin again? To start out with people who didn’t see the mess your life was, the mistakes made by others and by you, the dreams unfulfilled? Yes, it would, but none of those things can be erased. They’re there – part of you, part of the intricate and wonderful being that is you.

Are you a What or a Why?

There’s a verse in the Psalms I’ve loved for a long time.  “He made known His ways to Moses, His deeds to the people of Israel” (Psalm 103:7).  I like that God made a distinction between those who knew about Him, and the one who was a friend to Him.  To Israel He revealed the things He did, but Moses was given a deeper understanding of the heart behind those deeds.  As Christians, Jesus doesn’t call us servants anymore, but friends.  God’s ways are so different from ours, but no longer do we have to be outsiders – just observing the things He does; we can actually ask Him questions and get to know Him.  I think that’s amazing.

 

Are you an observer of what God does, or do you wonder about Him and want to know why He does it?  If you’d like to know God, you can do that by accepting that Jesus died on the cross in your place, taking the punishment for all you’ve done wrong, then God raised Him to life and took away the power of death.  Now Jesus stands in the gap between God and you, and you can talk to God because of what Jesus has done.

For Better for Worse, for Richer for Poorer

I was reading Psalm 22 just now, and these verses stood out to me:

“For he has not ignored or belittled the suffering of the needy.  He has not turned his back on them, but has listened to their cries for help” (verse 24).

 

“The poor will eat and be satisfied.  All who seek the Lord will praise him.  Their hearts will rejoice with everlasting joy” (verse 26).

 

“Let the rich of the earth feast and worship.  Bow before him, all who are mortal, all whose lives will end as dust” (verse 29).

God cares for us – in good times and bad, and His kingdom is open to us all – rich and poor.

A-Z: X-Ray Vision

Who has X-ray vision?  Well, God does.  “His understanding no one can fathom” – Isaiah 40:28.

 

Our pastor asked one day what we thought a mediator was and somebody said:  “An enabler of dialog.”  He liked that and so did I.  Jesus has opened the Way for conversation between us and God.  He went on to say that if you were choosing a mediator, you’d want someone who ‘Really got you’/really understood where you were coming from, so they could put your case to the other party.  Jesus understands us.  He knows us intimately, and what’s more, we can know God.

 

I heard a story this week that I really wanted to share on the blog, so I’m glad it fits in here.  An actor was once the guest of honour at a gathering, where he was asked to recite extracts from different literature.  An old preacher who was there asked him to recite the 23rd Psalm (the LORD is my Shepherd).  He said he would, on one condition – that the preacher also recited it.  The actor’s recitation was beautiful.  He put the emphasis in all the right places, and as you’d expect, there were applause.  The preacher’s voice was rough from years of preaching; his rendition anything but polished, but when he finished, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.  When asked what made the difference, the actor said:  “I know the Psalm; he knows the Shepherd.”

Thankful

This morning I read my usual devotional E-mail but wasn’t sure what else to read.  I saw a couple of things about Psalm 55 so thought I would have a look at that.

 

The beginning talks about how David’s enemies treated him terribly and held angry grudges.  (Haven’t we all been there?)  Then he went on to say what really bothered him:  It was his close friend who was against him.  “We enjoyed being together, and we went with others to your house, our God. …  His words were smoother than butter, and softer than olive oil.  But hatred filled his heart, and he was ready to attack with a sword” – Psalm 55:14, 21.

 

Verse 14 made me stop and think.  What would that be like – to have my close friend, someone I trust, the one I go to church with, turn against me?  I was so grateful I wasn’t experiencing that.  My first reaction was to say:  “Lord, don’t let what happened to King David happen to me”, but then I remembered:  It happened even to Jesus when He was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, and Jesus says no student is greater than his teacher (Luke 6:40).

 

We don’t know what’s ahead in our futures, but let’s thank God for the here-and-now.

Great Honour

Do you remember back in the summer, I wrote a couple of posts about “The Unquenchable Worshipper”?  If you like, you can read them here and here.  I said I might not blog about every chapter – well, I put it down for a while and have just gone back to it, so thought I’d write about chapter 6.

 

Matt talks about unstoppable worshippers, and some of his examples, I hadn’t heard before.  I’d like to read more about them, so I’m going to look in the notes to see what books they came out of, but here are 3 that impressed me.

 

1.  Rachel.  With the recent tragedy in Connecticut, this story touched me particularly.  It happened back in 1999, in a US high school, that 2 students went in with guns.  Knowing Rachel was a Christian, they shot her 3 times, then they asked whether she believed in God.  She said yes; they told her to ‘Go be with Him’; another shot was fired.  She put God’s honour before her own survival.  Would we do the same?

 

2.  Stephen:  He was the first Christian killed for his faith.  Before he died, he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55).  Every other time we hear about Jesus at God’s right hand, He’s sitting, but this time, He’s standing.  Matt points us to Smith Wigglesworth’s explanation of this – that Jesus is on His feet cheering Stephen on, for honouring Him in his difficulty.

 

3.  Jesus Himself, when He shared that Passover meal with His disciples, just before His arrest.  Apparently several hymns are sung at a Jewish Passover, the last of which is Psalm 136.  So when the Bible tells us that after they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives (Mark 14:26), it’s very likely they were singing Psalm 136.  Knowing that Judas’ betrayal and His death on the cross were imminent, Jesus could still sing a Psalm all about giving thanks to God, who is good, and whose love endures forever.  Wow!

 

Makes you think, doesn’t it?