Short Devotion : Galatians 4:9

May 29, 2022

“But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?” Galatians 4:9

If we’re hoping to gain spiritual merit through our good deeds we will only become enslaved to them. Coming to God requires the humility to acknowledge we can’t do anything to impress God or even gain his attention. We may say, “we have come to know God” but we only know him because he first awakened our hearts to his presence.

Read more of my short devotions on this blog or on Pinterest.

by Susan Barnes
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Book Review : Amanda Commander

May 26, 2022

Amanda Commander : The Purple Invitation by Coral Vass tells the story of Amanda’s disappointment at not receiving a birthday invitation to her classmate’s party. The disappointment is even more pronounced when Amanda realises that every other girl in year 3 received an invitation. Amanda’s best friends support and offer suggestions as she attempts to get herself invited.

Coral Vass does a good job of showing how Amanda works through her disappointment and helps children understand that missing out on a friend’s party doesn’t have to be traumatic. Amanda learns resilience and the importance of being gracious. The story also shows how misunderstandings can be avoided with open communication.

Overall an entertaining, well-told story for 8-12-year-olds.

by Susan Barnes
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FOMO : The fear of missing out

May 24, 2022

Last year on a beautiful autumn afternoon I was driving to my home near the Snowy Mountains in Australia, and I saw the season’s first snow on the mountain peaks. It looked like white gelato. I live the perfect distance from the mountains. Far enough away to avoid snow in my backyard but close enough to admire the view. My house is about a kilometre from the supermarket, newsagent, hairdresser, petrol station and my doctor’s surgery. I feel very blessed. I live in a beautiful place. I have everything I need.

Yet all of God’s blessings haven’t immune me from FOMO – the fear of missing out.

This acronym has come into being with the increasing use of social media. When we see our friends’ online photos of where they are, what they’re doing, and what they’re eating, we feel like we’re missing out. This fear becomes the devil’s temptation to believe that God is keeping good things from us.

Everything we need

Eve was the first female in the Bible and she had everything she needed. She lived in the beautiful garden that God had created for her and Adam. The LORD God made all sorts of trees grow up from the ground—trees that were beautiful and that produced delicious fruit … A river flowed from the land of Eden, watering the garden” (Genesis 2:9-10).

Adam and Eve had plenty to eat and drink and there were no threats to their health or wellbeing. They had a sense of security, and their emotional needs were also met. They were loved by God and by each other. There was nothing to be anxious or worried about. Furthermore, they had a sense of purpose. God told them: “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground” (Genesis 1:28).

What could the devil possibly tempt Eve with? She was blessed with everything she could possibly want. Yet Eve succumbed to temptation when the serpent tells her she is missing out on something good – wisdom. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil” (Genesis 3:5).

Why would God keep something good from us?

The devil manages to convince Eve that God is keeping something from her, something good, beautiful and useful. Why would God plant a beautiful fruit tree in the middle of the garden containing something as important as the knowledge of good and evil and not want them to eat its fruit? Logically it made no sense.

The devil’s temptation expressed the idea that God was keeping something good from them and if God was a good God, why would he do that?

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a test. Would Adam and Eve trust God’s goodness? The garden God provided showed ample evidence of God’s love and care. But, would they trust God when he said, no? Would they trust his leadership in their lives?

Consider God’s goodness

Eve was convinced by the devil’s lies. “She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it” (Genesis 3:6).

In eating the fruit Eve was saying, “I’m missing out on something good. I need wisdom. I need to know more than God is telling me.” She didn’t consider the evidence of God’s blessings that she saw all around her every day and succumbed to the devil’s temptation.

The devil still uses the same tactics. We see pictures or hear stories of other people’s good fortune and feel like we’re missing out, not always on material things, but on spiritual blessings. “Why is God taking so long to answer my prayers? Why haven’t circumstances worked out the way I hoped?”

At such times the devil seeks to chip away our trust in God by tempting us to doubt his goodness. By our words or our actions, we may succumb and say to God, “I need to know more than you’re telling me.”

But God would say to us, “You don’t need to know. You need to trust me.”

by Susan Barnes
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Short Devotions : Galatians 3:1

May 22, 2022

“You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” Galatians 3:1

Living by faith in God’s grace is difficult. Our human nature likes to be religious and measure our ability to obey laws and keep religious observances. It loves to calculate how much of the Bible we read, how long we pray, how often we attend church services and other gatherings. Our natural inclination is to compare our efforts with those of others and congratulate ourselves if we have done more. But this is foolishness, not faith. Instead, we trust God’s grace. He has done all that is necessary to save us.

Read more of my short devotions on this blog or on Pinterest.

by Susan Barnes
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Book Review : Unceasing Kindness

May 19, 2022

Unceasing kindness : a Biblical theology of Ruth wasn’t what I was expecting. I love the story of Ruth and was hoping for more insights into the story. However, the authors, Peter Lau and Gregory Goswell,  have taken a wider perspective and looked at the book in the context of the other Old Testament books.

In our Christian Bibles, based on the Greek ordering of the Old Testament, Ruth is located after Judges and before the books of Samuel. Since Ruth ends with David’s genealogy and Samuel introduces David, this arrangement shows us how God prepared the way for his ideal king.

Some Jewish canons put Ruth immediately after Proverbs as she provides the perfect example of a noble wife (Proverbs 31). Other commentators believe Ruth should be read alongside Ezra and Nehemiah. This is because of the difficulty with foreign wives being sent away in these books. The book of Ruth provides a fuller picture. Ruth is a Moabite who is accepted into Jewish society and this also touches on the theme of mission. Ruth has forsaken the gods of Moab and chosen to follow the God of Israel something we don’t see happening with the foreign wives in Ezra-Nehemiah.

The authors discuss other themes found in Ruth, such as redemption, kingship, kindness, wisdom, the hiddenness of God and human agency. The hiddenness of God is an interesting theme as God’s purposes and actions aren’t clearly annunciated in the book of Ruth. We only hear of God spoken about by the characters in the story. This is often how God works in our lives, too.

Kindness is an important theme in the story, not only Ruth’s kindness to Naomi but Naomi’s kindness to Ruth in Moab (or why would Ruth choose to go with her?). There is also Boaz’s kindness to both Ruth and Naomi and God’s kindness to all.

Overall, an interesting read but a bit heavy going and tedious at times.

More reviews can be found on Goodreads

by Susan Barnes
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