Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

h1

Captivating

September 14, 2010

Today I picked up an “old friend” of a book – John Eldredge and Stasi Eldredge’s Captivating (2005). I simply can’t recommend it enough. It is one of the (sadly) very few Christian women’s books that I have read, and re-read, and been transformed by.

h1

The Awesome Song of Songs + a lament on self-righteous singles

May 12, 2010

Reading this on facebook? Please view and comment at the original post!

*Warning: big generalisations

Gledhill, T. (1994) The Message of the Song of Songs. Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press.

Koorong Books

If you read only one Bible study on Song of Songs, make it this one. It covers a lot of detail and is a positive read. It is so refreshing to read a Bible study text that affirms sexuality, rather than treating it as something to be dissected, abhorred and feared.

Today I read an article on a Christian website that seemed to characterise marriage as God’s ‘back-up’ plan for the Christian who has no self-control. It appeared to be a simplistic dichotomy between married versus unmarried. The single Christian is perceived as somehow superior to the married Christian.

Usually I find the articles on that site as being high quality and excellent; but this particular article really did come across as the poorly thought-out. Perhaps I misunderstood it. The author is clearly writing as a single man – there is a peculiar kind of arrogance (for want of a better word) that a lot of young single Christian men seem to have regarding their lifestyle / lifestage.

These foolish attitudes ignore the original created very goodness of marriage (Genesis 1 and 2). It also implies that somehow God sees the single as greater  than the married. Yet, as I repeatedly tell my peers, marriage is what has transformed me – it is through marriage and parenthood that I came to know Christ, that I shed much selfishness, that I have had to learn grace, patience, endurance, forgiveness and generosity. I have had to learn self-sacrifice. I can no longer go out to drunken parties and sleep in late and do what I feel like, because it is not about me. I can’t just buy what I want – the money is not mine but ours. Everything I do impacts on the lives of other people. I am an individual, yes, but I am a social being who exists within the context of family and community. Not that I consider myself communitarian, but we are more than just our individuality – we are all social creatures, designed in the image of a Triune God, purposed for LOVE, and love can only exist when we realise that ‘I’ is not the centre of the universe. (Yes, obviously single people are capable of love so please don’t think I somehow characterise “them” as the “Other” or as soulless robots.)

Now, I have read other articles by the same author that I have found useful and insightful. However, I must admit that these days I find little substance in Christian preaching that comes from young, unmarried, determinedly and self-righteously single (as opposed to those who are genuinely called by God and gifted to walk in celibacy / singleness). It simply rarely applies to my life stage. I am in my 20s and trying to discover who I am and where I am meant to go, as a woman, as a wife, as a mother and daughter and sister and cousin and niece, as a student and in my future career, and as a member of a local community of followers of Christ. There is a level of annoyance that I experience when unmarried Christians my own age start preaching on the benefits of what appears to be a generally self-absorbed life style. Singleness does not equal greater devotion to God. When I am scraping together money to pay another set of bills, trying to keep my kids in private Christian school, when I really would rather just have that money to buy myself some new jeans, or I’m trying to be patient towards my husband, trying to ignore my own convenience to serve my family, well – that’s when God comes in. Because only He can give me the grace, strength and energy that I need to get through these challenges. Only He can provide when the bills cost more than our income. Only He can help me create a healthy marriage.

I understand that many young Christians may be called to a time of singleness, but I think some unnecessarily inflate their pride by assuming that they are too good for marriage, that marriage is God’s Plan B. It also ignores the practical realities of marriage and parenthood in the Christian context – leave it too late and biology will have its way: the human female body is, I have heard, designed to reach peak child-bearing age in the mid-20s. It all goes downhill from there. A young woman who ever wants the possibility of having a family will need to bear this in mind before it is too late.

Gledhill’s Song of Songs is an excellent study that shows that sex really is designed by God as part of the whole human experience. I mean, it really does become a thing of beauty when considered through God’s eyes. It is a well-written and balanced text and I certainly recommend it, particularly to married or almost-married Christians. I for one would love to see Christians, in general, shed their bizarre hang ups and legalistic ideas regarding sex. I do get tired of the Christian marriage books (usually American, it seems to me) that treat sex in marriage as a series of “do nots” but miss out on the glorious complexity of the human being and the marriage relationship.

I also get tired of reading complicated manuals on dating, etc. Really, is it that complex?All this stuff on ‘the girl should not ask a guy out’, ‘you should have your first chaperoned date by age 15’, ‘some kinds of sex between a man and wife are sinful’… blegh. Whatever. If we spend all our time constructing these difficult and complicated and not-in-the-Bible rules, we’re going to miss out on the glorious full and abundant life God has for us. That extends to making up some rules, based on half-read Bible verses, about how God is disappointed every time a Christian gets married. Because He’s not disappointed. Marriage is given as an example of the love Christ has for His church. It is by no means an inferior state of being.

*Disclaimer – I am not trying to bag single Christians. I do not believe that married or unmarried is the argument or debate here. We are all unique and we need to ask God to open our eyes to what He would have us do.

h1

Following Jesus – 4 – The Name

October 5, 2009

Jesus – what image comes to mind at His name? In my childhood, it meant that white guy hanging on the cross statue in our Church. I knew He was a miracle worker and that He taught people a highly moral lifestyle. I knew He was called the Son of God and that He was part of a Trinity. Still, it was merely head knowledge. In my teen years, He became symbolic of what I thought was a dead religion that persisted despite ‘scientific evidence’ to the contrary… a religion that was authoritarian and legalistic. In my early years as a university student, He once again became a good moral teacher. I knew a few people who called themselves His followers; and they managed to demonstrate this in their words and actions. Their lifestyle intrigued me – I wanted to know what made them so different. Their example drew me in. Of course, I tried to deflect their influence – I had hundreds of questions, many I thought would be devastating to their Christian faith, but they patiently gave answers (1 Peter 3) and treated me with a kindness I knew I did not deserve.

Maybe, when we hear Jesus’ name, the image that comes to mind too often is that of His followers. And not the ‘good’ ones. It’s the weird ones who go a bit ultra-mystical. Or the sort who seem to think the Good News of the Gospel is all about making more money. Or the types who seem to take delight in their moral superiority and use it to attack non-Christians. Maybe it’s the type who think Christianity is an excuse to judge someone else, ask people to ‘pray for that bad person,’ and then tell that person that they’re praying that they’ll escape God’s judgement. Or perhaps it’s the ‘Christian’ whose outlook seems to be fairly racist, bloodthirsty and committed to their own culture’s version of ‘success.’

Still, I don’t want to be negative, and I don’t want to pretend that somehow my own Christian walk has been exemplary. See, the thing that scares me is that maybe, for the many people in my life who do not believe in Jesus, when they hear the name ‘Jesus,’ they’re going to think of me. My life. My example. My words and actions. How have I treated them? Have I come across as narrow and judgemental? Or materialistic? Or moralistic and legalistic?

One scary thing about being a follower of Jesus is that my own life and example could have an impact – whether positive or negative – on the people around me. When some social issue comes into a conversation – some political thing, or maybe a moral issue like abortion – how are they going to interpret my response? Will I be loving and merciful, like my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, or will I be the hellfire and brimstone Bible thumper that leaves them wishing they hadn’t asked?

I don’t know how right it is, but I like to point people to Jesus Himself. As He is described in the Bible. Perhaps not enough people have read the Four Gospels these days for me to assume that people know the records of His life. The Bible records that, as a child, He and His family had to flee the violent ruler of their nation and seek refuge in Egypt (Matthew 2). As an adult, He worked at the family trade – carpentry (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3) – before beginning His ministry; which was marked by miracles (Matthew 11:20; Mark 6:2; Luke 19:37; John 10:25), astounding teachings (Matthew 7:28; Matthew 13:54; Matthew 22:33; Luke 4:36);and violent persecution (Matthew 26:4; Mark 14:1; John 7:25). He was murdered, but He rose again to life (Luke Chapters 23-24). Then, shortly after His resurrection, He ascended to Heaven (Acts Chapter 1). He then sent the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, to Earth to inhabit His followers and empower them to live their lives for God (Mark 1:8; Luke 11:13; John 14:26).

One of the most astounding things Jesus said about Himself was this:

John 14:6 (NIV)

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

I used to think that rather offensive a statement. In my early Christian walk, I then tried to provide elaborate reasons and explanations for it. Lately I’ve been more inclined to suggest that there’s only a couple of ways to take this statement:

If Jesus is truly God Incarnate, the Creator, Sustainer, Saviour, and Redeemer of all Creation, then He is well within His rights to make a statement that, coming from a mere mortal, would be ridiculous – or a sign of insanity. That is, God is well within His right to be the decider of issues of eternity and salvation.

If He is insane, then one must wonder how He also managed to revolutionise the way that humans treat each other. We may well take for granted His teachings on justice, mercy, kindness, charity, forgiveness and goodness – but these values are not particularly intrinsic to humans, are they? Look at the broken down world, where one side of the world is dying from starvation and the other is dying from diseases resulting from overeating; where racism and war and hatred are daily occurrences; where the elderly are beaten and the young are abused and the unborn are routinely murdered; where people engage in incredible acts of cruelty towards our fellow creatures; where the wilderness is butchered for profits; where we know the right way to live but choose the selfish, hedonistic options instead.

With more than a little hint of C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, I am convinced that Jesus is either Lord, Liar or Lunatic. His amazing lifestyle, teachings, and descriptions of Himself don’t leave room for much else.

Following Jesus

h1

By Request?

April 21, 2009

I’m interested in hearing from regular readers (and there must be a few of you because in just over a year I’ve had 30,500 hits on this site). I would like to know if there are any topics on which you would particularly like me to write a blog post. I think it’s a symptom of the fact that I am doing half my usual university study load this semester, and would like to take advantage of the extra time to perhaps write a few short blog posts on up to 5 requested topics.

Please use the comments box to add your (genuine) suggestions. If you are reading this on facebook.com, please follow the provided link to the WordPress Blog and add your comments there.

Suggested topics might include:

– Australian culture.

– Thoroughbred horse pedigrees (maybe there’s a particular horse you’re interested in and want to know a bit about its family). Australian horses preferred.

– Christianity and Apologetics. Have you got any questions about a particular area of apologetics? I may be able to dig up some information for you (as an interested layperson).

– Art! This is primarily an art blog, so I should probably write on art at least once in a while!

– Maybe you have some suggested ideas for my RedBubble Online Store and Gallery, where I sell some of my art designs as t-shirts and art prints.

– Vegetarianism. Do you have any questions about vegetarianism?

– Environmentalism issues.

– Books! I read a lot of books… so I might have some suggested reading ideas for you.

I really hope my readers can help me with this! Be creative.  🙂

h1

Easter T-Shirt Design

April 15, 2009

2898300-1-inri-inspired-by-easter

T-Shirt –
http://flokot.redbubble.com/sets/30716/works/2898300-1-inri-inspired-by-easter
As an Art Print and Greeting Card – http://flokot.redbubble.com/sets/31396/works/2898307-2-inri-inspired-by-easter
RedBubble Profile – http://www.redbubble.com/people/flokot

**

Here’s my latest t-shirt design, which is available for purchase at RedBubble.Com. I entitled it “INRI,” which is an abbreviation of the Latin for, “Jesus of Nazereth, King of the Jews,” that is often seen on images of the Cross in Roman Catholic Churches. That said, as always my art here is intended as a non-denominational celebration of the foundational aspects of Christianity that followers of Jesus hold in common.

While I do not have time to go into great detail here, I thought that a brief summary of the Gospel message is in order:

– in the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth and they were perfect. There was no suffering or death.

– Satan was a great angel who, in his pride, sought to take God’s place. As a result, he Fell and became the Devil. He is not the exact opposite of God, but rather a corrupted, and very powerful, creature.

– God appointed the first humans to be his representatives on Earth. However, they gave up their authority by obeying the Devil. Later, in the Gospels, the Devil is seens as telling Jesus that he (the Devil) was given all authority on the Earth (see Luke 4:6). All that was under the dominion of Humanity was now the Devil’s.

– This was the beginning of the Curse, the entrance of death and suffering into human existence. The punishment for humanity’s sin (disobedience to God’s commands) is death. All humans who have since existed inherit this sin from their fathers. However, God promises to one day send one who will be of the seed of a woman – not a man. The only way for men or women to reach God is through the shedding of blood of an innocent individual.

– God the Son, one of the three persons of the Trinity (the Trinity being One God who is represented in Three Individual but Indivisible Persons… phew! I know, it can be such a mystery, can’t it?!), took on human flesh. That is, though He remained fully God, He was also fully man. He was born of a Jewish Virgin, but not of a human father. God the Father was His Father.

– Jesus lived a short life, but in only three years of ministry transformed the world. His ideas were radical and often offensive to the people of His day, who plotted to kill Him. The Devil probably thought that he had won by killing Jesus… but, in the shedding of Jesus’ innocent blood, the perfect payment for all human sin was made.

– After three days in the Tomb, Jesus rose again and subsequently appeared to hundreds of people before being lifted to Heaven. He sent the Holy Spirit of God to live in believers, empowering them to continue Jesus’ earthly work.

It is an astounding Gospel and very good news for any who has ears to hear and an open heart. Admittedly, it took me several years to be convinced of it as being True… oh but it is glorious!

A few thoughts:

– think of all the various religions, spiritualities and rituals that demand the shedding of blood and sacrifice. What does it mean if God Himself has become the sacrifice? What exactly are all the religions shedding blood for, anyway?

– The Bible tells us that no one can earn their way to God through their own efforts of work (Ephesians, Chapter 2). For me, I was quite shocked at this. I had spent years thinking that my own goodness and morality would be enough to find God, and I was upset to think that it wasn’t enough. However, I eventually realised that it was a great relief. How would I have known that I had done enough for God? How would I be able to tell between good and evil, for that matter? What place, then, do good deeds have in the Christian life?

Good books…

If you want to learn more on this topic there are countless resources out there. If you’ve only ever read anti-Jesus conspiracies, but consider yourself open-minded, you may want to check out the pro-Jesus books (to balance your views).

Some useful books are The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel, which takes a court case approach to the Gospel accounts of Jesus. The Jesus I Never Knew and What’s So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey are fantastic books that really challenged all my assumptions about Christianity. Ravi Zacharias’ Jesus Among Other Gods is also a good book; and a fantastic read that really dissects the questions about Jesus and the Gospels is Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis. Last time I checked they’re all readily available. You might want to try Australian bookstores like Koorong and Word.

h1

291. Elfish Girl In Coloured Beeswax

September 22, 2008

Tinted beeswax crayon and graphite pencil on lined notepaper, August 2008.

Sometimes art is more fun when I just grab a notebook and start drawing. This came after a raid on my children’s pencil case. I have noticed a definite hint of Ancient Egyptian influence on the style of drawing I employ, with the person in profile, yet having a distored perspective as the eye is viewed front-on. Well, I can see this, even if no one else can!

I find Egyptian culture fascinating. Earlier this year I read a really interesting book, Unwrapping the Pharaohs, which offers an interesting possible harmonisation of Ancient Egyptian archaeology with that of the Ancient Hebrews. It’s written by Australian* authors John Ashton and David Down, and you kind find out more information at the publisher’s website. Click here for more information. I bought my copy from Koorong Books in Australia.

*That is, I’m reasonably certain they are Australian!

h1

Qualities of a Superhero

July 7, 2008

I’ve been reading a book about comic book illustration (1), and was amazed at how a hero can be represented by the shape and style of his / her appearance. Qualities including nose shape, muscle build, the shape of the neck, even the back, they all contribute to identifying the hero by appearance alone.

Being one of those individuals who tends to think too much about most things, I started to wonder what a Bible-based conception of a real hero would be. Far be it from me to reduce my Lord to a mere mythical action figure, so please don’t think that’s what I’m doing. However, His life displayed heroic qualities that go far deeper and are more profound than sculpted abs, muscular thighs and a big chin!

I think Isaiah 61 is a beautiful portrait of the amazing work of the Saviour. I hope it is an encouragement to you.

Isaiah 61:1-3 (The Message)

The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me because God anointed me. He sent me to preach good news to the poor, heal the heartbroken, Announce freedom to all captives, pardon all prisoners. God sent me to announce the year of his grace – a celebration of God’s destruction of our enemies – and to comfort all who mourn, To care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion, give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes, Messages of joy instead of news of doom, a praising heart instead of a languid spirit. Rename them “Oaks of Righteousness” planted by God to display his glory.

He’s out there, healing the brokenhearted who turn to Him. He’s bringing a message of life and joy.

Now, read of the Lord’s amazing character:

Deuteronomy 10:17-18 (New Living Translation)

“The LORD your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords. He is the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and takes no bribes. He gives justice to orphans and widows. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing.

The Lord is not a xenophobe! 🙂 Justice for those who cannot achieve it for themselves, the poor, the needy, the widow, the lonely, the orphan. And God is not swayed as humans are. He cannot be bribed into action.

And finally, on these thoughts, the Lord is merciful. He freely forgives, even those who have turned on Him.

Nehemiah 9:17 (New Living Translation)

But you are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and full of unfailing love and mercy.

Wow!

(1) Hart, C (2007), Simplified anatomy for the comic book artist: how to draw the new streamlined look of action-adventure comics, Watson-Guptill Publications: New York, USA. ISBN-13 9780823047734.

PS – I am enjoying this comic anatomy book. Look it up if you’re into drawing! Even though I don’t personally draw in this style, it is always a useful exercise to expand one’s horizons. And it’s really helped me learn about anatomy, as it applies to drawing, without going into excessive detail.

(2) Scriptures accessed 7 July 2008 at http://bible.crosswalk.com/.

%d bloggers like this: