Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

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Christmas Time Devotionals

November 23, 2010

Christmas Themed Devotional Readings: https://darthmaulmakesmesmile.wordpress.com/tag/Christmas-2008/

In 2008 I wrote a series of 28 Christmas-themed devotionals, beginning with https://darthmaulmakesmesmile.wordpress.com/2008/11/24/christmas01/.

At the time, I wrote:

I thought I’d take some time out to share a few thoughts on Christmas in the month to come, as a sort-of non-denominational pre-Christmas Advent devotional and musings column. I hope that it brings you some light, inspiration and excitement as we remind ourselves of the true meaning of the festive occasion.

I believe it is still relevant and hope you will consider reading it as part of your spiritual journey during December.

The devotionals incorporate Bible scriptures and links to further readings on related topics of faith.

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Sometimes I feel a bit redundant

September 27, 2010

Yeah, what the heading said.

So, I’m in this weird state of mind where I look at what the people in my husband’s family do (career wise, spiritually, educationally, etcetera) and I wonder what on Earth I’m doing there. I don’t belong there. Everything that I have considered unique about me, or specific to my self identity, has already been taken up by other people there. Strange that it should bother me so much, but here we are!

I used to be an obsessive musician. Granted, I was never a virtuoso, but many people remarked on my innate gift for music. I was even the inaugural music captain at my high school (13 years ago, that was!). Then I moved to the suburbs, joined a brilliant mega-church, and discovered that good musicians are a dime-a-dozen. So, I gave up my music. Oh, I occasionally strum the guitar and I can help my kids with their own piano studies, but I feel like a part of me has died a very painful death in giving up music. Listening to the Karnivool album ‘Sound Awake’ this afternoon, I had to admit that putting my beloved 5-string bass guitar in its case and stuffing it away behind the chest-of-drawers in my bedroom was a terrible, terrible thing. I really should dust the poor neglected guitars off and play, even if just for my own sanity.

Perhaps I’m just in a low point in my life. I look at the high-flying, high-achieving 20-somethings around me and compare myself to them. I’m in my late 20s and what do I have to show for it? A still as-yet-incomplete uni course on the go, no job, no music. I struggle with the things I love, art and writing. I just have to keep reminding myself that other Australian women my age often aren’t married with children like I am, and it feels good thinking that my youngest will be finishing high school when I’m 40 years old!

In all the self-loathing and moaning and carrying on, I have neglected my Bible study. So, in order to combat this, today I spent an hour scouring a Bible study website to begin a word study on the “elements”: earth, wind, fire, and water. Talk about a massive topic! It should keep me occupied for some time.

Hopefully, as I pour myself into God and into the bigger picture, I will begin to regain my confidence and strength. I hope that one day I can create something beautiful and worthwhile.

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Christian Apologetics Article on “BioLogos”

September 7, 2010

Another apologetics link – in this case, on the topic of BioLogos, one of the various alternative perspectives out there that tries to fit the Bible into science (in this case, it appears to be a form of “theistic evolution“).

http://creation.com/biologos-evolutionary-syncretism

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Apologetics Links: Genesis 1 & 2 – contradictory?

September 6, 2010

A frequently asked apologetics question (and, admittedly, one that never really crossed my mind even in my most skeptical anti-Bible beliefs) is the perceived contradiction between the first two chapters of Genesis. My simplest preferred answer to this is that Genesis 2 is merely a fleshing out of the details of Genesis 1:24-31.

All links accessed 6 September 2010.

http://creation.com/genesis-contradictions

http://www.gotquestions.org/two-Creation-accounts.html

http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2010/09/03/feedback-genesis-1-and-2#

http://www.tektonics.org/jedp/creationtwo.html

http://creation.com/whats-in-a-name

http://www.christiananswers.net/q-eden/edn-ordercreation.html

Read Genesis Chapter 1 at Bible Study Tools (New King James Version)

Read Genesis Chapter 2 at Bible Study Tools (New King James Version)

*This post is not dealing with the issue of whether or not Genesis should be taken literally, just whether or not the first two chapters of the Bible contradict each other. Further information on the issue of historicity of Genesis can be found at the websites linked above, and clarifying questions should be directed to those websites.

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Christian Apologetics Resources

September 1, 2010

1 Peter 3:15-16 reads:

But in your hearts set apart Christ as LORD. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

(New International Version, http://www.biblestudytools.com/1-peter/3.html)

Knowing the impact that Christians who follow this instruction have had in my own life, I have sought to follow it as closely as possible. To be able to “give an answer” when I can. Perhaps my reputation for doing this spread  a little amongst my fellow churchgoers, because I have found more and more recently that I get asked a lot of questions. Admittedly, my response often resorts to a line that I taught to members of the Bible study groups I used to lead: “I am not sure I can answer your question, but if you really want an answer, I will try to find one.”

Usually, when trying to answer people’s genuine questions*, or at least set them in a helpful direction, I generally refer them to one of several websites. In light of a recent increase in the number of questions I’ve been asked, here follows a list of the websites I have found most useful in helping fellow believers consider possible answers to their faith dilemmas.

* Genuine questions from genuine open-minded seekers, as in, not questions for the sake of being irritating!

I list these with the clear understanding that no apologetics ministry is infallible, and that all statements of faith must be measured against the Word of God (the Bible). I am also a  firm believer in academic freedom-of-thought, where all views deserve a reasonable voice in discourse.

If you have any suggested apologetics links, feel free to list them in the comments boxes. Be aware that more than one or two links will probably result in your comments being filtered for moderation / spam!

Creation Ministries International (Australia)

Creation: Frequently Asked Questions (Australia)

Creation Magazine (Australia)

Leadership U

Master Books

Every Student

Alien Intrusion (Australia)

Christian Answers

Josh McDowell

Institute for Creation Research

Probe Ministries

Archaeological Diggings Magazine

Ancient Days

Tekton Apologetics Ministry

Messiah Comes

Koorong Books – Academic (Australia)

Biblical Hermeneutics (Australia)

Kevin Conner E-Store (Australia)

RZIM

There are many, many books available on apologetics topics. Some books that I have read and found helpful are:

More than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell

The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey

The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

In Six Days edited by John F. Ashton

The Creation Answers Book by Don Batten et. al.

Jesus Among Other  Gods by Ravi Zacharias

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Following Jesus – 5 – Dehydrated Broccoli

October 12, 2009

Genesis 2:16 “And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden…” NIV

Genesis 9:3-4 “Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything… But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it.” NIV

Matthew 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” NIV

Food… ah food. What an incredibly divisive thing it can sometimes become. No doubt there will be a touch of hmm… irony? Probably not the correct term… but I write as a long-term vegetarian, so if I complain about people making a big deal out of food, it may well seem hypocritical. Sorry if it comes across that way, because that’s not my intention!

Here’s a quote from a book I read recently when researching for a university assignment: “The world now features more overweight than underweight people… This absurd situation is led by the US, where over half its citizens are clinically overweight. It possesses more people on diets than ever before, yet ever-more overweight people, too. Obesity-related illnesses and deaths, often brought on in major measure by gorging on oversized fast foods and drinks, are a major drag on the nation’s economy. In certain countries, fatty foods could eventually cause as many additional premature deaths as from AIDS. The UK has proposed a “fat tax” targeting obesity-related foods such as burgers.”

(From: Myers, N. and Kent, J. (2005). The New Gaia Atlas of Planet Management. London: Gaia. P. 67.)

That was published in 2005; the last I heard it was we Australians who top the list for fattest nation on the planet. Not a proud title, to be sure. I can’t find a straightforward statistic on that, unfortunately.

So, here we are: fat, diseased, obsessing over diets. What does this have to do with being a Christian, you may well ask? As the above Scriptures say, God is the ultimate creator and source of food. The Bible shows that, in the beginning, humans were given “green plants” to eat. As history progressed, and God interacted and intervened with His creation, food was often a part of His instructions – animals as food, but without consuming blood in Genesis 9; Leviticus detailing a lot of rules regarding food; and the New Testament exhorting us to not worry about what we eat, because it’s not the main part of life. God does not ask us to separate the physical and spiritual realms (which is, I believe, an aspect of Gnosticism). He created our bodies, with all their fascinating functions and purposes.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” NIV

However, it is certainly a significant issue. What made me think of it was when I caught a clip on a tv show recently, where the presenters were hailing the ‘newly discovered’ health benefits of broccoli. Then the presenters debated – and I hope it was a joke, but it probably wasn’t – how to get children to eat this magical new form of cancer-preventing, life changing broccoli. The solution was to dehydrate, powder and turn into tablet form a kind of broccoli that children will actually eat. Like I say, I hope it was a sad joke – but the way people around me talk, in their day to day lives about food – one would think that vegetables can only be consumed in tablet form.

Now, perhaps my family is a bit odd. We are vegetarians, after all. But my young children eat broccoli without a fuss. They also eat myriad other vegetables and fruits. We certainly don’t need to give them vegetables in tablet form. They eat all sorts of things – last night (as I write) it was fresh olives, avocado, mixed vegetable patties, and a slice of wholegrain bread. No powdered vegetable tablets. No ice cream or milkshakes or other junk. Just a mixed platter of mostly fresh foods.

Sometimes I wonder if our attitudes to food reflect the way we view the rest of our life. I am sympathetic to the philosophy that food is becoming bland and homogenised and too sped up. Where is the time to enjoy the variety, the flavours, the time spent with family and friends over a good meal?

Instead, we seem to be looking for a quick fix, an easy way out. Stuff down that fatty hamburger and soft drink and appease the guilt with a powdered broccoli pill. We look for cures for terrible diseases that may well be prevented through lifestyle changes. We consume more than we need while millions are dying from starvation throughout the planet. It’s not a surprise that “gluttony” is considered one of the seven deadly sins. It encompasses the concept of complete lack of self-control combined with a withholding of possessions from the needy.

Now, I offer no simple solutions to this. I am not a nutritionist nor a social scientist (not yet!). But I do offer a couple of ideas based on what seems to be working for my family:

a vegetarian or (in the case of some family members) mostly vegetarian lifestyle

eating a variety of different fruits and vegetables

eating plenty of grains – not just wheat, but rice, polenta, rye and many more

including legumes / beans in our daily food intake

sitting down together at the dining table for all meals

trying to allow the time to prepare meals

being aware of seasonal produce

buying local, where possible

not telling our children that we don’t expect them to like broccoli!

ensuring we have a deliberate source of  B12

not leaping on fad diets that promise ‘instant’ weight loss

walking or exercising regularly

switching off the tv

menu planning in advance – and trying something new

incorporating many different styles of cooking – we aren’t interested in tofu substitutes for meals normally consumed by white, middle class Australians, we are looking to try often natural vegetarian meals derived from a variety of cultures.

These aren’t just health options; they are also, we hope, beneficial for the environment – which encompasses the dimension of seeking to help our fellow humans by not destroying the world just to get a fast food hamburger. It also inspires compassion towards God’s creatures. Hmm. That’ll do for now. I’m hungry…

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Following Jesus – 3 – Nature

September 28, 2009

Abell 2667 - From www.nasaimages.org

Abell 2667 - From http://www.nasaimages.org

Nature is full of some incredible things. The magnificent beauty of the galaxies. The colour and scent of flowers. The satisfaction of eating fresh vegetables that have grown in the garden. The majesty of the large beasts. The cuteness of the small beasts!

There’s some amazing stuff out there. The more that humans explore nature, the more we find. The further we travel, the more stars we find. The smaller the objects we can see, the more layers of reality are discovered. The intricate workings of the human body still have their many mysteries. Even the simplest life form is incredibly complex.

God is amazingly creative. He’s made a world of such awesome wonders. It’s amazing how creation isn’t just functional, it’s beautiful. Think of the creatures that inhabit the dark depths of the ocean but are spectacularly colourful. Or the incredible designs on butterfly wings.

The interesting thing with following Jesus is that nature takes on a new significance: nature has been made by a loving creator for His purposes and enjoyment. He has made humanity, in His image and likeness, to dwell in this world of matter.

The spiritual life isn’t about denying the material things, but putting them in their correct priority. We do not pretend that suffering doesn’t exist; we use what we have to alleviate suffering.

Luke 12:33 (NIV)

Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.

Nature is not, then, a deity in itself. It has been made by The Deity, to serve His purposes. However, nowhere do I see in the Bible that this is permission to plunder the Earth’s resources. Indeed, when we damage the environment, we destroy the world in which other people live. Caring for the environment is, I believe, a reasonable way of responding to God’s creation. Think of how He made a beautiful Garden, Eden, and placed the man and woman there to tend it and care for it. He did not say, “go and destroy this Garden in your quest for material possessions.”

Genesis 2:15

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

I read a while back an interesting idea that Christian environmentalism incorporates the human element.* Rather than deifying nature, and downgrading humans, it seeks to take into account how the human treatment of the planet affects not only nature but all humanity, too. It included an awareness of such things as the manufacturing conditions of the products we buy. I personally believe there are many good environmentalist arguments for vegetarianism, for example, as well as acknowledging that many foods suitable for human consumption are instead fed to farm animals, which are then consumed by the small proportion of rich Westerners who can afford fast food. I digress. What was the point I was trying to make? Ah, yes – that being a follower of Jesus necessarily impacts on the way I perceive nature.

All too often we followers of Jesus have been linked to a philosophy of guns, hunting, destruction of the planet, and cruelty to animals and even to our fellow humans. But surely there is a distinction between religious ‘Christianity,’ in which man-made rules become the highest law; and a life genuinely lived following the Lord Jesus Christ and living as those called to tend His Garden? While such things – environmentalism, issues of diet, and our treatment of nature – may well be secondary to the primary issue of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, one of our greatest apologetics is found in the way we live our life.

Peter 3:15-16 (NCV)

But respect Christ as the holy Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to answer everyone who asks you to explain about the hope you have, but answer in a gentle way and with respect. Keep a clear conscience so that those who speak evil of your good life in Christ will be made ashamed.

Finally, acknowledging God as Creator has significant effects on my life: I have Someone to thank for the glorious wonders of nature. I can enjoy and appreciate animals, plants, the changing seasons, the stars, the weather, the land formations… I can also be creative – as I am made in the likeness of Creator God, so He has bestowed at least a little of His creativity on all His people. I have a reason to care what happens to the planet, and to do what I can to look after the environment. And I can enjoy the spectacular discoveries of the natural sciences, as human exploration reveals more and more of God’s spectacular works.

*David Tyler, Creation – Chance or Design?

Following Jesus

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