Posts Tagged ‘Books’

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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.

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More apologetics!

September 13, 2010

Useful resource for introductory Christian apologetics from CMI.

I have read both the books in this set and do recommend them to fellow Christ followers who want to learn more about how to defend their faith and explain it to the people around them. (I know I post a lot of links to this particular Christian ministry; I do not work for them, I simply appreciate the impact they’ve had on my own faith journey!)

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Thinking aloud: reclaiming identity and beauty

September 2, 2010

Is it possible to become simultaneously less judgemental yet more shallow?

I ask the question because I realise, as I look around the shopping centre, that these days I am far less likely to judge other people based on their outwards appearance; yet more likely to spend an effort on my own appearance.

Is paying attention to personal grooming actually shallow, anyway?

As I hit my late 20s, I reflexively observe that I am starting to claim and reclaim aspects of my personal identity that were not a high priority for me in my teens.

I am a mother, and I claim that as part of my identity. I also stand firm in my belief that to be a mother is not equivalent to losing all sense of self-esteem, nor is it an excuse to pay less attention to my outwards appearance. I have often thought this in my just-over 8 years of parenthood (9 years, if you count pregnancy as parenthood). It was once again highlighted for me recently when I noticed that at least a few mums (moms, for the North American readers!) spend a lot of money and effort on clothes for their children, but dress themselves extremely casually (not that I particularly care if a mum wants to dress in trackie dacks and ugg boots, but be assured, that’s not for me!).

I have Anglo-Celtic heritage – more Celtic than Anglo – with a bit of French somewhere in the background. I claim that as a significant aspect of my ethno-cultural identity, as an  Anglo-Celtic Australian. It is a package deal: don’t pick on me for my super pale white skin, and don’t pick on my many immediate family members with their red hair – it’s nothing but poorly disguised racism. I would never dare to attack someone because they’re “not tanned enough”, and thus I make a stand. I don’t wear fake tan, either. It looks stupid on me. I don’t sunbathe – certainly not with the high skin cancer statistics: two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer before the age of 70, according to the SunSmart website (article dated March 2010, accessed 2 September 2010).

However, I digress. I have spent far too long worrying about people not liking me for who I am. I am learning to accept myself and others, at the same time I am learning to spend more effort on “looking good”. My question is, then, are these things mutually exclusive?

On the topic of looking good, I recently read a great book: The Science of Sexy: Dress to fit your unique figure with the style system that works for every shape and size by Bradley Bayou (2006 edition) [Amazon]. I highly recommend it for women like myself who want to do the best they can with the figure they’ve got. I found it light-hearted, practical and realistic, and am now in the process of trying  to implement its advice in my wardrobe and accessories.

The short story is that it dawns upon me that life is far too short to be wasted on picking on other people for their clothing style, haircut, and body shape. Yes, I know that this is elementary Christianity*, and elementary feminism, all rolled into one, but to have a deep down illumination and revelation of this is another matter altogether. It’s one thing to have head knowledge, it’s another thing to live it from the heart. And it’s yet another thing to live in such a way that offers freedom to others. Life also seems far too short to spend living half-hearted – and for me, reclaiming my feminine identity is part of this process of living life to the full.

*It saddens me that very few Christian women authors appear willing to take a stance against the cultural-structural images of womanhood. Most of the Christian women’s texts on beauty that I have read centre more on the theme of “God loves you even if everyone else thinks you’re ugly,” rather than what I believe is the sociologically far more appropriate “Culturally designed notions of beauty are historically, ethnically, socially positioned beliefs that are not foundational to  Biblical interpretations of beauty.”

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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.

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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

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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.

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Christmas #27 – Christmas Apologetics And Further Reading

December 24, 2008

This post is mainly on the topic of apologetics. What is apologetics?

Apologetics, understood simply, is the field of theology that investigates the evidence for Christian beliefs. After writing the previous 26 posts in this Christmas series on the topic of the Gospel message, and the meaning of Christmas, I wanted to provide the reader with extra information on where they can learn more.

I have honestly sought to provide links here that will appeal to a broad range of Christians across different denominations. It would be impossible, of course, to provide every possible viewpoint, so I have been selective for time and space constraints. However, I hope that these will provide a useful starting point for those of you who are believers who want to know more about the basis for your faith. I hope that you find it helpful and encouraging.

*Inclusion of a website here does not necessarily imply complete acceptance of opinions put forward by that site. External websites may change without notice. All links given in good faith, accessed 1 October 2008.

Books About Jesus and the Gospel Message

* here I have provided the author’s name and title of the book plus links to online bookstores that sell each book.

Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew. Koorong.

Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace? Koorong.

Charles Swindoll, Jesus. Koorong.

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity. Koorong.

Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ. Koorong.

Ravi Zacharias, Jesus Among Other Gods. Koorong.

Josh McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict. Koorong.

Apologetics Websites

Creation Ministries International.

Institute for Creation Research.

Answers In Genesis.

Leadership University.

Probe Ministries.

TrueU.

EveryStudent.

Compass.

Ancient of Days – Archaeology and Biblical Research.

Biblical Geology.

CreationWiki.

Christian Answers Network.

Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.

Got Questions – Bible Questions Answered.

The Creation Research Society.

Global Flood.

Evidence of God.

Creation Apologetics.

The Young Earth Creation Club.

Uncommon Descent Intelligent Design Blog.

Werner Gitt.

Lee Strobel.

Josh McDowell.

Dinosaurs In The Bible.

Apologetics Books At Koorong.

Apologetics Books At Master Books.

Apologetics Articles About Christmas

“A Right Christmas”
http://www.icr.org/article/20101/

“Alien invasion or the meaning of Christmas”
http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2007/12/23/alien-invasion-or-the-meaning-of-christmas/

“Calculating Christmas”
http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=16-10-012-v

“Christmas and Genesis”
http://creationontheweb.com/content/view/5535

“Christmas Countdown – when does the holiday season really start?”
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/news/2001/dec07.html

“Christmas – what is the true meaning?”
http://www.christiananswers.net/christmas/home.html

“Demonstrating the Christ of Christmas”
http://www.crosswalk.com/news/1177872/

“God of Creation or ‘God’ of Christmas?”
http://www.icr.org/article/700/

“Is Christmas necessary?”
http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/christma.html

“Is the biblical Christmas story true? Is Jesus Christ for real?”
http://www.christiananswers.net/christmas/skeptic.html

“Jason Lisle vs. Hugh Ross debate: annotated transcript”
http://creationontheweb.com/content/view/3414

“Star Witness”
http://www.icr.org/article/254/

“The Drama of the Christmas story”
http://www.leaderu.com/humanities/dramaxmas.html

“The Real Twelve Days of Christmas”
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/news/2004/dec24.html

“The holiday formerly known as Christmas”
http://www.boundless.org/2000/features/a0000373.html

All links accessed 1 October 2008.

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