Thinking Thursday: My Lord’s Prayer

When Jesus gave his disciples the Lord’s Prayer, it was as a model or example of the way we should pray. There is no special power in the words themselves, to be repeated exactly. Rather, this is how you should pray. So, based on Matthew 6:9-13, I wrote my own. I thought you might find it helpful.

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Thank you, God, that you want us to call you Father. You are far above all the things a father should be, but as close and as loving as the best father. 

May your name be honoured and praised throughout the world. May your rule extend to all men’s hearts and rebellion cease. And may that be especially true in our lives. 

We need bread, Father. Not just food for our bodies but food for our souls. Feed us both, we pray, every day. 

When others hurt us, we try to forgive them. Teach us how, and forgive us in our turn. 

Help us to stay out of trouble, and strengthen us when trials come. 

May our lives bring you honour and glory, and extend your Kingdom. We will praise and glorify your name for ever. Amen 

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Thinking Thursday: I Have Superpowers!

I have just been to see the new X-Men film, Apocalypse. I loved it. But as I was coming home from the cinema I started thinking about these characters with superpowers.

X Men Apocalypse

This film in particular introduces us to teenagers who don’t know what to do with their powers, or sometimes how to control them. This is complicated by the reaction of the ‘normal’ humans around them – mostly fear and consequent rejection.

In the X-Men franchise people with superpowers are called mutants. In the Heroes franchise on TV, they are called evo’s (evolved). In both cases they have to cope with being different and struggle to know what to do with their powers.

Did you know that I have superpowers?

There is a power in me that was used to raise Jesus from the dead.
his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms. (Eph.1:19-20)

This power is for us who believe – so if you’re born again you have it too. We’re not mutants or evo’s, we’re reborn – a new race of human beings. And like those teenagers in the film, many of us don’t appreciate the power we have or know what to do with it. Like them, we’re afraid of being different, of being ridiculed or rejected.

We have other powers too:
be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Rom.12:2)
the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil.4:7)
the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. (Gal.5:22)

All these powers are gifts from God. We don’t create them in ourselves, but we can smother them so they don’t show.
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. (Rom.12:6)

What have you been given, that maybe you haven’t even discovered yet? If you knew you had superpowers, wouldn’t you walk a little taller, be a little more confident? You don’t need to worry what other people think or say. You are being remade in His image, to be the person you were meant to be. You are of the new race, citizens of another kingdom.

But our citizenship is in heaven. (Phil.3:20)

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Thinking Thursday: How and What Should I Pray?

Supplication

Paul prayed for the Ephesians, and, like the Lord’s Prayer, it’s a good model for us to follow:
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph.3:14-21)

HOW:

For this reason – he is concerned that the Ephesian Christians might lose heart because he is in prison (Eph.3:13). We can bring all our concerns to God, and our thanks and praise as well.

Bow my knees – Jewish practice was to stand in prayer. Kneeling indicates submission and commitment. Perhaps it’s helpful to us to kneel, for a physical act to affect our hearts.

Father – Prayer connects us to the Father and to his purposes in our lives, the church’s lives, and the whole world.

WHAT: 

… that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. (Eph.3:16-17a)

Strengthened with power – Purpose
Christ may DWELL in your hearts – Goal. Not temporary, dwell means to settle

.. that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph.3:17b-19)

Comprehend … the love of Christ – Rooted (gardening) & built up (construction).
Jesus love is wider than all eternity (John Stott). A love that goes on and on.

Filled to all the fullness of God – Goal, and what a goal! How would it be for you to be completely filled with God?
For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. (Col.2:9-10)

Develop power so Jesus dwells
Discover love so God fills

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph.3:20-21)

God will take your prayers and do so much more.

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Thinking Thursday: What An Inheritance!

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Jesus is the only man who made a will, died so that we could inherit, and then came back to life again to make sure we did!

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Today is Ascension Day, when we remember that, after his resurrection appearances, Jesus ascended to heaven in front of witnesses. Because of all that Jesus did, we have a great inheritance if we follow him, and his ascension put the seal on it all.

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, chapter 3, he talks about the mystery of the Gentiles, that God’s promises are no longer only for the Jews:
This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (Eph.3:6)

Through the gospel the Gentiles have the same inheritance as the Jews, so whoever you are, the same is available to you:
… an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. (1 Peter 1:4)

This inheritance comes because you are related:
and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans.8:17)

So what is this inheritance?
But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Cor.2:9)

It’s full extent is beyond our comprehension, but here is just a taste:

Acceptance: In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. (Eph.3:12)

Salvation: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God (Eph.2:8)

Riches: Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! (Romans 11:33)

Resisting Temptation: Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)

Validation of our faith: And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. (1 Cor.15:14)

The Holy Spirit as a constant companion and counsellor: But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7)

Jesus’ continuing intercession for us at the right hand of God: Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. (Hebrews.7:25)

So what should be our response to so great an inheritance?
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, … Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Eph.5:15, 16a, 18b-20)

[Adapted from a sermon by Gaynor Maclean at Pantygwydr Baptist Church]

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Thinking Thursday: Review of Epic

Epic

Last year, on a day out, I found the book Epic by John Eldredge in a charity shop. The concept intrigued me, so I bought it. I read it very quickly, and here is my review on Goodreads:

What a brilliant book! since it’s only slim, it’s not daunting either, nor is the tone in which it’s written. I got this in a charity shop, but will be buying copies to give away. It’s perfect for Christians and non-Christians alike.

If you ever wondered what Christianity is all about once you take away the religious trappings, this is the book for you. If you’re already a Christian, it will thrill you and help you understand why the story is so important. Non-preachy, uses modern films as examples, this book explains simply the real story we find ourselves in, even if we don’t know it. Highly recommended, in fact, if I knew you would take it seriously, I would buy it for you.

Looking at the other reviews, they are a real mixed bag. Some people expected something different, and so they didn’t like it (After all, you don’t expect a book called Epic to be so small!). Some people didn’t like all the book and film references, and I suppose if you aren’t familiar with them, the references wouldn’t make sense. Some people didn’t like his style.

All these things are hazards for any book. Leaving those aside, the book has made a deep impression on a lot of people. Often as Christians we forget the bigger picture, or were never taught it in the first place. Our own personal struggles gain a new perspective when we look at God’s great plan. Here is part of the book description:

For when we were born, we were born into the midst of a great story begun before the dawn of time. A story of adventure, of risk and loss, heroism . . . and betrayal. A story where good is warring against evil, danger lurks around every corner, and glorious deeds wait to be done. Think of all those stories you’ve ever loved–there’s a reason they stirred your heart. They’ve been trying to tell you about the true Epic ever since you were young.
There is a larger story And you have a crucial role to play.

If you don’t know the Epic, it’s time you found out.

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Thinking Thursday: Dealing With Destiny

[Taken from Women’s Bible Study Conference (Wales) 2016, speaker Penny Curley]

Dealing with Destiny, knowing where we are going.

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Destiny is the inevitable succession of events. People say the only certainties in life are death and taxes.
…people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment. (Hebrews 9:27)

Death is not our destination, it is just part of the way
Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. (Romans 6:8)
…if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins… But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.(1 Cor.15:17,20)

There is something more beyond.

In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (John 14:2-3)

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. (2 Cor 5:1)

At the end of C S Lewis’ book The Last Battle the people think that the world is ending, Narnia is gone. But Aslan explains that now they will get to see the real Narnia.

No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. (Rev 22:3-5)

How should we face our destiny?

The Bible does not shy away from death. Woody Allen famously said, ‘I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.’ Mark Ashton wrote a book called On My Way To Heaven which many people found very helpful in dealing with death.

Florence Chadwick was a long distance swimmer who tried to swim the fogbound Catalina Strait. She was defeated by the fog, and found after she gave up she was only half a mile from the coast. She later accomplished the swim by clearly visualising the coast even though she couldn’t see it.

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:13)

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)

Final Thoughts
Dealing with Doubt – not a wall but a bridge
Dealing with Depression – not a curse but as a gift
Dealing with Destiny – not an end but a beginning

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Writing Wednesday: Meta-Documents

In the IT world, metadata is information about the data, such as when it was created, updated, deleted, who by, how big the file is, and so on. In writing, especially fiction, meta-documents are documents about the novel, rather than the novel itself.

I talked last week about outlining, and the outline is a meta-document, but unlike most other meta-documents, you produce it before you start writing the novel. The other documents you produce during the writing process, to help you keep track of things.

Whatever you may think before you write your first novel, you will soon find it absolutely vital to devise some way of keeping track of these details. Otherwise you may have a hero whose eyes change colour, a place that’s down the road in one chapter and several hours away in another, or lose track of the passing of time.

Some writers keep a notebook with a page for each character, some have a file on the computer that they can keep adding to, lots of people use spreadsheets, because they are perfect for making lists and not hard to learn. Writing software usually includes space for this, and I use yWriter, so I’ll be illustrating what I mean with screenshots from yWriter. (I think it’s really great, and the best thing is, it’s free!)

Timeline and Pace

Details

Timeline
It may not be important to know what day it is, but you need to keep some track of time, otherwise you may have children in school for six days in a row, or have two groups of people who take different times to do things but meet up again on the same day. Your timeline can be as simple or detailed as you like.

Ratings labels

Pace Chart
The pace of your novel is how often there is action, tension, comedy, romance or just exposition and progression of the story. When you track the pace you can see how this balances out. Is there too much action without giving readers time to catch their breath and think about the story? Is there a big chunk where there’s no action and readers might get bored?

yWriter has Action/Reaction and Plot/Subplot switches on every scene, and allows you to configure your own ratings, which then appear in the Details screen show previously, where you can rate four different things out of ten.

Characters
Characters
You need to keep details of every major character, and you might find you need some minor ones too. I don’t draw up character sheets in advance like some people do. I don’t work out their birthday, schooling etc., unless I need it for the story. But as I’m writing, every time I mention something about a character, I write it down. Next time I need to mention it, I can check it.

If you’ve been following posts on my author blog about my novel Intruders, you will have seen pictures of actors who look like my characters, just to make descriptions easier.

Locations
Locations

I had been writing Intruders for years when my son asked me what the spaceship Kestrel looked like. I had no idea. That’s why there were no descriptions of the scenes there. I made a rough sketch, but soon found as I improved the novel that I needed to know lots more details. The same goes for all your locations. If you write the details down you can refer back to them later.

Items

Items

This list refers to any object or other thing that you need to keep details on. What sort of gun is it, who did it belong to, where was it used or lost? You might need details of the weather in a certain place, or the terrain. It might be an object that gets stolen or is a vital clue.

You may be the sort of planner who likes to decide all these details ahead of time, or someone who just makes them up as they go along, but you need to write them down somewhere. That way you can be consistent through the novel and not jerk readers out of their absorbtion with a jarring error.

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