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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Journeys, adventures, and opportunities
    
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“Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” ~ Greg Anderson


 Over the next few weeks I will be travelling to Africa, and through South Africa. A journey I am looking forward to and which is going to expose me to new people, places and activities.

It’s amazing how we can cover such huge distances in such short times and it got me thinking about those guys who walked and boated around the time of Jesus.

Jesus was not as much of a walker as Paul and some others. There is now a trail that goes where Jesus did go, and  that you can walk in Israel, that covers about 65km and can be done in about 4 days. According to wikipedia the trail is as follows:

·         Day 1: Nazareth to Cana via Sepphoris
·         Day 2: Cana to Kibbutz Lavi
·         Day 3: Kibbutz Lavi to Moshav Arbel
·         Day 4: Moshav Arbel to Capernaum via Mount of Beatitudes


Probably something I would like to try sometime!

Yet Paul is the amazing traveller. In just one journey Paul travelled between Jerusalem and Rome, a distance of about 1430miles or 2300 kilometers.

On foot and boat with probably the odd donkey, or camel on the way!


He did many other journeys with similar distances between them.

Travelling then, was different to today. Danger was everywhere! Paul describes his hardships as

“ Five times the Jews gave me 39 strokes with a whip. Three times I was beaten with sticks. Once they tried to kill me by throwing stones at me. Three times I was shipwrecked. I spent a night and a day in the open sea.

  I have had to keep on the move. I have been in danger from rivers. I have been in danger from robbers. I have been in danger from people from my own country. I have been in danger from those who aren't Jews. I have been in danger in the city, in the country, and at sea. I have been in danger from people who pretended they were believers.

 I have worked very hard. Often I have gone without sleep. I have been hungry and thirsty. Often I have gone without food. I have been cold and naked.

Most of us who travel have less to deal with than that, thankfully!

No hotels on the way there! Maybe the odd room or cave or guesthouse, but the modern hotel was not even conceived of.

Those early travellers spend days walking in the dust and sun, being rained upon and struggling to find food along the way. They fought off robbers who knew people had to carry cash to survive their journey.

Tough times, so why did people like Paul continually do this?

To give others the chance to get to know Jesus!

Perhaps today it’s just to easy to tell others. Perhaps that's why we don’t value it the way Paul and the ancient Christians did!

A short while back I travelled to Mexico to do the work of God helping the poor there. We took some young people with us! A fond memory of mine is of a young man who relates with great emotion, the meeting of an older man who thought he was not allowed to accept Jesus.

He describes how the older man was almost in tears because he thought couldn’t have Jesus in his life. Simply because of his previous religious faith! Then, how the young man was instrumental in explaining to the older guy that Jesus was able to help anyone, anywhere, and there was no restrictions. How this older guy was so happy when he received the gift of eternal life and Jesus.! How the younger guy that we had taken with us to Mexico was brought to tears by the joy of the occasion!

The power of God at work in a distant land!

That’s why we really journey! My prayer is as I travel for the next few weeks there would be opportunities to get to know and help others.

Perhaps today you could look for someone to help? It’s simple really! It just takes love, patience and a touch of courage.

Enjoy today! Also, please note that I cannot blog as easily while I travel, so perhaps you can read a few of the older blogs on days I fail to get to write. Last year this time, or pick a subject and search the blog listing.

Have a wonderful day and be blessed!
Thu, August 16, 2012 | link          Comments

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Damascus, Syria and the bible

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   Explosion hits near Damascus hotel used by UN: state TV ~Globe and Mail[1]


Again!


Damascus is an ancient city that seems to have continually had strife. Our Christian bible describes encounter upon encounter where someone was attacking someone else in this region.

It is considered to possibly be the oldest continually inhabited city in the world, and definitely in the Levant, the place where civilization started and spread. It is carbon dated to have been settled about 6300BC and around it are settlements dated to 9000BC. It was part of the Hyksos kingdom region of Amurru (The Hyksos were Canaanite Egyptian rulers), and a Jewish historian Josephus indicated that Damascus was founded by Uz, son of Aram.

Alexander the Great conquered the city when he took over the known world of the time. By 64 BC the Romans had taken control and incorporated it into the Decapolis.

Maybe it is the age of this city that is the reason that there is so much written about it!

The first time we hear of it in the bible, is when Abram (not yet Abraham) chases the people who had captured Lot his nephew, to get Lot back. The bible says

During the night Abram separated his men into groups. They attacked the enemy and drove them away. They chased them north of Damascus as far as Hobah.”[2]

This was in a time before great nations, a time where each city was its own city state. Obviously, Damascus was one of them. Today it has 1,7million people, then, it would have had perhaps a few thousand at the most.

It’s a dry semi-arid city, but does have a river that flows through it, the Barada River. This is the same river which was named differently in 2 kings 5. This is where Naaman, commander of the king of Aram, preferred to wash over the Jordan river when he was told to go wash by the prophet.

He said “And what about the Abana and Pharpar rivers of Damascus? Aren't they better than any of the rivers of Israel? Couldn't I wash in them and be made pure and clean?"[3]

Even he got angry when told to do this!

A New Testament reference to anger and Syria, is when Saul goes to get letters to enable him to capture and kill Christians in Damascus.

“He asked the priest for letters to the synagogues in Damascus. He wanted to find men and women who belonged to the Way of Jesus. The letters would allow him to take them as prisoners to Jerusalem[4]

It was on the road to Damascus, that Saul meets Jesus, later resulting in him becoming Paul, and one of the greatest writers of the New Testament.

God had a plan and this city was entwined in the biblical records of God’s plan. In fact, the last mention in the bible is in the letter to the Galatians where it says

I didn't go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was. Instead, I went at once into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus”[5]

This describes Paul’s struggle within himself around visiting the other apostles of Jesus.

Now today there is civil war threatening the city. People are taking up arms and fighting.

It seems that Damascus will be the center of conflict for a long time to come.

It would be good for peace to settle on the place. Until it turns the focus from hate to love, this will probably not occur.

Similarly, we often have areas of our lives that are war torn and hate filled.

We should learn that no matter how old the hurt, how often the damage, there is only one way out of this type of conflict and that is to allow God to bring peace and love into the situation.

Maybe today we have to face our own Damascus. Maybe we, like Naaman will need to submit to God to be healed. Maybe if we go to Jesus and ask him to heal the hurts and replenish our spirit in these areas, we can have peace and joy in our own lives.

I know it’s my prayer for Syria right now!


[1] http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/explosion-hits-near-damascus-hotel-used-by-un-state-tv/article4481963/
[2] Genesis 14:15
[3] 2 Kings 5:12
[4] Acts 9:2
[5] Galatians 1:17
Wed, August 15, 2012 | link          Comments

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Controlling those unwelcome thoughts?
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Animals have an advantage over us, they have no unwelcome thoughts to intrude upon their morality.

 
Ever had those unwelcome thoughts that we know are just not right to have?

I have!

Last week ,I was told by someone that they kept dreaming violent dreams.

Dreams themselves can be controlled and some cultures make it an art form to mold dreams into forms that is acceptable to their cultural values.

Yet, most of us don’t feel we have that control!

Most of us, even fail to control our waking desires and impulses, or at least to control the thoughts they bring.

Christians have an instruction from God that goes like this;

Don't worry about anything. Instead, tell God about everything. Ask and pray. Give thanks to him. Then God's peace will watch over your hearts and your minds because you belong to Christ Jesus. God's peace can never be completely understood.

 Finally, my brothers and sisters, always think about what is true. Think about what is noble, right and pure. Think about what is lovely and worthy of respect. If anything is excellent or worthy of praise, think about those kinds of things.”[1]

Great words!

Just really hard to do! Right?

Isn’t it true that the more we try not to worry about something, the more it seems to increase its hold over us?

Have you noticed how it’s those thoughts we want to avoid, that seem to intrude and come back to mind with ease, and those thoughts we would rather have, seem to elude us?

This is because it is hard to avoid something without having it in our mind, and if we have it in mind, it tends to capture our thoughts and then it achieves the very thing we want to avoid, taking control of our thoughts.

Catch 22! To avoid it, we must not think of it, but to remember to avoid it means it has to be on our mind!

Hard!

It’s easy to end up feeling guilty because we cannot control the thoughts! Satan loves this and wants to keep us guilty and failing! He wants us to obsess about things that take us down, and he wants to make the thinking feel compulsive.

Is there a way out?

Yes!

Paul describes the effect of compulsive thinking in Romans 7

Here is the law I find working in me. When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. Deep inside me I find joy in God's law. But I see another law working in the parts of my body. It fights against the law of my mind. It makes me a prisoner of the law of sin. That law controls the parts of my body.

What a terrible failure I am! Who will save me from this sin that brings death to my body? I give thanks to God. He will do it through Jesus Christ our Lord.

So in my mind I am a slave to God's law. But in my sinful nature I am a slave to the law of sin.[2]

Here we find out that Paul understands how these selfish, nasty and ignorant thoughts drag us down.

 Yet Paul somehow believes that Jesus provides a way out!

How?

Let’s go to the first verse referenced above.

It says... Don't worry about anything. Instead, tell God about everything. Ask and pray. Give thanks to him.

The advice is to tell God about everything!

We need to let God know how we are struggling with the thoughts and what they are stealing from us.

Jesus understands, he walked this earth and had many problems in his life. Yet he had peace and joy.

When we pray we are being mindful of the thought, but placing it directly under God’s control. We release it in the presence of God where it has no power to do harm.

Letting God know, ensures we have no fear of guilt that comes from hiding things, or ourselves from God.

God knows all! We simply need to tell God of these things, to fully realize we are not |God and that we recognize that God does know all!

Next, ask Jesus for help! If there is one person who can help in this area it is Jesus!

Probably, none of us have been so emotionally distraught that we sweat drops of blood!

Jesus has been there and so he knows what it is to have the Father intervene in his life. Jesus sent Holy Spirit to be with us and he helps because he knows just how hard life is.

Jesus wants us to win and knows how each of us need specially crafted guidance to gain victory. As we speak to him and let Holy Spirit guide us, he lets that joy that is locked up deep inside us surface, and this allows God’s peace to take control. By following God’s guidelines we gain control!

As this, happens let’s thank Jesus for the victory!

These battles of our mind happen frequently, and so should be frequent triggers to talk to God.

Strangely enough, once Satan realizes that triggering these unwelcome thoughts results to us talking with God, he stops triggering them.

Soon we will find we have been for long periods of time without the unwelcome thoughts returning!

This is the way to way to control unwelcome thoughts!

So today, lets pray, and in so doing turn our thoughts to good things, removing the power of the unwelcome thoughts, and replacing it with God’s joy and Jesus forgiveness!


[1] Phillipians 4:6-8 NIRV
[2] Romans 7:21-25 NIRV
Tue, August 14, 2012 | link          Comments

Monday, August 13, 2012

Suffering how did Job do?...part 4 : Summary and conclusion
   
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“The truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering the more you suffer because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt” ~ Thomas Merton


 
This is the last in the series discussing Job and suffering!

In the past three blogs on this subject, we have looked at story, including the scene in heaven that is the prologue, which Job never gets to see or understand but which is revealed to us the reader.

Here we see God not only loves Job, but entrusts Job with faith, that Job would still love God despite encountering very difficult circumstances.

We see Satan as God’s antagonist, wanting to see Job suffer, and telling God that Job will curse him as he suffers.

Then we see how God allows Satan to have his way with one exception, he may not take Job’s life.

Job’s life becomes a misery! He loses everything including his health and he is tortured by sores, itches and inability to keep down enough food to stop getting extremely thin. He is so ill that he wants to have his life taken away from him.

During this time, his three “friends” , Eliphaz a mystic, Bildad a traditionalist and Zophar a dogmatist, all tell Job he is the cause of his suffering due to evil he has done and sins he has committed. Job rejects this as he knows he is innocent, but he himself asks why God is doing this to him. He does not turn to understanding Satan is behind it, but himself, considers God to be the source of his trouble.

Then, Elihu speaks again, blaming Job for his situation. God then intervenes and his words don’t allow Job to dwell on himself, but turn Job’s understanding to the omnipotence and awesome greatness that God is.

This is the start of Job’s turning point. He starts to realize how self-focussed he has become because of his suffering, how he has neglected understanding and truly worshiping God. He sees this as the wrong he has committed and asks forgiveness. God then tells him to pray for his three “friends” who failed him in his time of need. Job does and he is reinstated to an even better state and health than before he suffered.

Reading Job in the bible is far better than this short synopsis of the story.

Yet, I think we need to draw out some key truths this story provides;

Firstly there is an end to suffering!

God sets limits on what we are permitted to endure in this life. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIRV) says “You are tempted in the same way all other human beings are. God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted any more than you can take. But when you are tempted, God will give you a way out so that you can stand up under it.[1]  

For Job, Satan was not allowed to go beyond what God allowed. God is still in control!

Secondly, God is aware of everything that happens to us!

He knows our situation and needs better than we do... Luke 12:6-7  (NIRV) "Aren't five sparrows sold for two pennies? But God does not forget even one of them. In fact, he even counts every hair on your head! So don't be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.”[2]

We see that God always fully understood everything happening to Job, even when Job didn’t feel or experience God’s presence in any way! We need to understand we don’t have to “feel” God is there, for him to be there!

Thirdly, asking “why” is okay but we must be ready to not understand or receive answers.

Job asked “why” and challenged God to tell him. God in the book never answers Job’s question directly. Instead, God reveals who he is to Job. We need to understand that we do not always get clear-cut reasons for suffering. Suffering is not necessarily, because we are evil or not. Looking for “why” can be a chasing the wind. Sometimes we just never know why in this life!

Fourthly, God is not necessarily in the business of clearing up accusations against us, but rather providing opportunities for us to grow in our relationship with Him!

Job was so certain of his innocence that he failed to see that he was so self-focussed he could not see beyond this. We often become so self-focussed that we cannot see beyond our pain.

Yet, when Job moved passed this point, he grew in faith, understanding of God, and in fact in his case (and we do not necessarily always have this) was rewarded by gaining back twice what he had prior to his suffering.

God wants us to gain spiritually all the time. Sometimes we are the ones who hold ourselves back by selfish, self-focus!

Fifthly, God is just and rewards accordingly!

No matter how unfair our life’s circumstances are, God knows and promises to reward, either in this life, or the one to come. He also indicates revenge is his to take, as only He can fully know all circumstances. We need to simply accept this, and move to the point of growth with God, letting go of what we think is our need for revenge, compassion, or whatever is holding us back!

Six, Let’s trust God when we are in bad times!

Life is not easy, there are many tough and even horrible, nasty events around us, and that happen to us and our loved ones. The fact that these exist, is due to the selfish, nastiness and ignorance in the world, and not due to God. Let’s trust God! Even when the going is rough!

Lastly, Let’s learn from our situations

God wants us to gain and grow! Our life is structured to give us these opportunities. Every event, good, or bad, is an opportunity to apply spiritual power to the task at hand, and learn to grow. We are given opportunities to train our minds, emotions and will to be God focussed instead of self-focussed. God will look after us, if we love him and those around us.

Job learned this and we see “The Lord blessed the last part of Job's life even more than the first part.[3]

Life is temporary, eternity is everlasting!

Let’s gain the skills to forge a powerful grace filled eternity, where we are fully enabled to serve our eternal purpose with skill and power.

The training ground is right now.

Suffering is one of the most powerful tools that we can use to gain these skills. In fact, some people seem to be blessed with a power walk with God just because of suffering. Think of Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela and others that have suffered much and how powerful their lives were and are due to this suffering.

We are on the brink of great gain if we can understand these hard truths!

Let’s apply them in our lives!


[1] 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIRV)
[2] Luke 12:6-7  (NIRV)
[3] Job 42:12
Mon, August 13, 2012 | link          Comments


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Rift in Evil

By Ken X Briggs

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This suspense thriller centers on Kiara, a beautiful young woman pursued by a murderous group of people, who relentlessly and ruthlessly hunt her and her sisters. Kiara has no idea why she is being targeted! When Kiara and her family turn to the law for help, this fails. Her pursuers’ powers reach deeply into the political and law enforcement world. Family support for her dwindles when they too have to flee her pursuers. Can Kiara escape the clutches of both the law and dishonest big business? With the media broadcasting that Kiara and friends are dangerous and subversive, can Kiara clear her name and bring her pursuers to justice?

 

 
  

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 RiftInEvil.gifThe town of Zinaville is dropped into a spiral of evil causing a young man and a beautiful but abused woman to launch into an investigation that unveils an evil conspiracy.

A horrific mining accident results in Joshua Robyn's father being killed. Joshua struggles both with himself and his townsfolk as he tries to make sense of an incomprehensible situation. Is it an accident or a murder? Why is there a seeming link to evil? Why is his work environment suddenly threatening? What is the conspiracy about and what are they trying to do? As action moves dramatically from exotic African grasslands to the heart of North America's cities, the plot unfolds and the pace quickens. Will there be time? Why is a beautiful abused young woman in the center of this plot?

Evil tendrils tighten on their lives and the interplay between the visible and invisible world shows opposing forces at work.

Will there be a rift in evil?

Will they be able to stop the evil in time?

 

 

 
Click here to order Rift in Evil (ebook or Paper available)
  • Published: September, 2010
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