Saturday, March 28, 2020

Waiting for What "Foundation?" | From the Archives

There are many “buts” in our life. The “buts” are generally . . . excuses. “I would do this, but . . .”

The other day, I found a very interesting “but” in God’s Word. 
From the first day of the seventh month began they (Israel) to offer burnt offerings unto the LORD. But the foundation of the temple of the LORD was not yet laid. (Ezra 3:6)

Israel was coming from the pagan enemy’s land to rebuild the temple by decree of King Cyrus (see Ezra 1:1-3). Almost immediately when they returned to Jerusalem, the city of the temple, they began sacrificing to God. 

Nothing hindered their service to the one true God. Not even the fact that the temple was not prepared or ready!

As I read this captivating story of Israel’s return to God, I began to realize that there are many “foundations” I am placing as prerequisites for my service to God. Things that in my eyes make sense, but in reality are a just an excuse for my disobedience to God’s gentle prodding. 

It can be as easy as, “Lord, if you answer this prayer, then I will . . .” or, “Yes, Lord, I see that I should do this, but I must wait until tomorrow.” or as far-sighted as, “Lord, I’ll do this, but it makes sense to be married first.” 

When we feel God’s leading, we do not need the “foundation of the temple” to be set in order before we begin. We can begin as soon as He tells us.

What “foundation” are you waiting for before giving your life, your possessions, and your time to God?

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Refocus | From the Archives

A young man is hit while riding his motorcycle to college, suffering many broken and fractured bones.

A mom of seven is diagnosed with stage 4 cancer throughout her body.

A man in his mid-fifties is taken down with a stroke and struggling in the hospital, while children and grandchildren watch.

A woman in her thirties suffers from liver disease and sees her husband suddenly pulled under water and carried away by the undertow.

These are four real-life situations that I have heard of from friends in the past few months. The list can go on as we each add our sorrows and difficulties. As we review the list, our hearts can begin to grow weary and depressed.

Jeremiah struggled with the same thing. He watched his beloved city besieged and God’s chosen people taken captive because of their disobedience. In Lamentations 3:1-20, Jeremiah reflects on the miserable sorrow he felt. Then suddenly, verse 21 comes with, “This I recall to mind, therefore have I hope.” Hope? In difficult situations?

Jeremiah suddenly refocused his thoughts. He chose to take his focus off the difficult situations he was facing and replace that focus to God:
It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. 
They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness. 
The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him. 
The LORD is good unto them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeketh Him. 
It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.(Lamentations 3:22-26)

Because of his concentration on God, Jeremiah was able to find hope and joy in any situation.

Are you going through a difficult time right now? Perhaps you need to refocus. Instead of letting the difficulties drag you down and hinder you, count your blessings and reflect on God. Read through the Psalms and copy verses that portray God’s mercy, graciousness, compassion, faithfulness, love, and hope. Praise God for all that He has done for you. Turn your focus from this world and put it on Christ. “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:2)

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Chasing the White Lion | Book Review

About the Book
Young CIA officer Talia Inger has reconciled with the man who assassinated her father, but that doesn't mean she wants him hovering over her every move and unearthing the painful past she's trying to put behind her. Still, she'll need him--and the help of his star grifter, Valkyrie--if she hopes to infiltrate the Jungle, the first ever crowdsourced crime syndicate, to rescue a group of kidnapped refugee children.

But as Talia and her elite team of thieves con their way into the heart of the Jungle, inching ever closer to syndicate boss the White Lion, she'll run right up against the ragged edge of her family's dark past. In this game of cat and mouse, it's win . . . or die. And in times like that, it's always good to have someone watching your back.

Former tactical deception officer and stealth pilot James Hannibal takes you deep undercover into the criminal underworld where everyone has an angle and no one escapes unscathed.

My Review
Book two was just as engaging and intriguing as book one--actually, I think I can honestly say that I enjoyed it more than book one. I’m loving these characters! They are all so diverse and yes, entertaining.

Like I said for book one (which you MUST read before this one!), this is an adventure-driven book that takes you all around the world. The situations are surreal, but so cool that I loved each and every point of the plot. I have never read "Hunger Games," but from what little I know about it, this book definitely had some "Hunger Games" hints toward the end.

The faith message was stronger and more prevalent in this book, which I appreciated. I found the salvation message presented was very... unique. It dealt with repentance and trust, but it was totally in a conversation that related to a criminal. That was very interesting.

There is a little progress in the romance field. Nothing super conclusive yet, but leading there. And I’ll admit, I kind of like where it’s hinting at!

*I received this book from the publishers and happily gave my honest review*

Monday, March 16, 2020

Out of the Embers | Book Review

About the Book
Ten years after her parents were killed, Evelyn Radcliffe is once more homeless. The orphanage that was her refuge and later her workplace has burned to the ground, and only she and a young orphan girl have escaped. Convinced this must be related to her parents' murders, Evelyn flees with the girl to Mesquite Springs in the Texas Hill Country and finds refuge in the home of Wyatt Clark, a talented horse rancher whose plans don't include a family of his own.

At first, Evelyn is a distraction. But when it becomes clear that trouble has followed her to Mesquite Springs, she becomes a full-blown disruption. Can Wyatt keep her safe from the man who wants her dead? And will his own plans become collateral damage?

Suspenseful and sweetly romantic, Out of the Embers is the first in a new series that invites you to the Texas Hill Country in the 1850s, when the West was wild, the men were noble, and the women were strong.

My Review
This was my first time to try Amanda Cabot. It was clean. It was sweet. It was western. And it had a hint of mystery.

Thinking back over the book as a whole, I really can't say what the spiritual plot or message was. They were Christians and prayed (particularly when difficulty arose), but though the MC had to learn to accept safety and trust, it wasn't really a Christian message so much as it was her circumstances that changed. So, I'd have to say it was kind of weak in that area.

The romance would be what most people term as "sweet." It progressed at a moderate pace throughout the book. There were a few kisses, but nothing untoward that I recall.

*I received this book from the publishers and happily provided my honest review*

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Sit at Jesus' Feet | From the Archives

Martha was a “restless will, hurried to and fro.” She was busy, but by her busyness, she missed out on what Jesus said was “that good part.” That good part which Mary chose: simply sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening, learning, but otherwise, doing nothing!!!! (see Luke 10:38-42*)

Often, as single girls, we dream of “Martha lives” as we observe what we perceive as dull nothingness. Whether we desire to be an adoring bride, a mother, a pastor’s wife, a girls’ counselor, or a “busy bee,” we cannot move beyond our single, seemingly stagnant years.

In her Bible study book, Living With Passion and Purpose, Elizabeth George reflected how Jesus spent thirty years before ministering for three years, concluding, 
“He shows us that, if we desire ministries to others, we must start with preparation . . . and then wait for God to provide the opportunities.”

As single girls, we might have many hopes and dreams for ministry. 

But . . . now . . . as we live our single years in our parents’ homes without the busyness previously mentioned, we should be content to “sit at Jesus’ feet” and learn and prepare

We have no clue what plans God has for us, but we can learn what God’s Word says. We can gird our armor and spiritually equip ourselves for what lies ahead. As busy brides, mothers, wives, and counselors, we will not always have an hour or two to dive into God’s Word – but we do now.

Instead of frustrating our lives with dreams of busyness, why don’t we relax in the time God has given us and sit at His feet, absorbing His Word? 

Why don’t we learn as much as we can? 

Let us not throw away “that good part” that we have now and waste it on dreams and frivolous things.

“Now it came to pass, as they went, that He entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard His word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to Him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

Previously published on May 16, 2013

Saturday, March 7, 2020

The Key to Forgiveness - Part 5 of 5 | From the Archives

Forgiveness Involves More than “I Forgive You.”
Jesus said, 
“So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.” (Matthew 18:35, emphasis added)

Forgiveness involves more than us merely mumbling, “I forgive you.” We see clear evidence of this by looking at God’s character.

1) God’s Forgiveness is backed by love
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:16-17, emphasis added) 

The whole reason God sent Jesus for us to have Eternal forgiveness, was because of His love for us (1 John 4:10). We can easily accept that love, but we must do more than accept it – we must embrace it as a pattern for our lives. 

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. (John 13:34, emphasis added) 

God’s love was manifested in His forgiveness for us. Our love for God should be manifested in our forgiveness towards others (John 14:15).

2) God’s forgiveness always involves a sacrifice
In the Levitical law, God required that an animal be sacrificed (Leviticus 4-7). He would look down from heaven, see the sacrifice, and forgive (Leviticus 4:31). 

In an action of love that only God can understand, He gave the ultimate sacrifice – His own Son – for our eternal forgiveness (John 3:16). To forgive God’s way, it involves a sacrifice; most often, a personal sacrifice.

3) God never “grades” sin – He just forgives
Sacrifices covered multiple “types” of sin in the Levitical law. There was no offense that could not be forgiven via sacrifice (Leviticus 4:26, 4:35, 5:10, 6:7, 19:22, Number 14:19, 15:28). 

When Jesus Christ died on the cross, He died for “small” sins of deceit, murmuring, covetousness, gossip, and idle thoughts as well as the “big” sins of dishonor, rebellion, murder, theft, fornication, adultery, and unfaithfulness. Christ died to forgive all sins (Acts 5:31, Acts 13:38, Acts 26:18, Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:14). 

If we, through God’s grace, are to embrace Christ-like forgiveness, it means that we must be willing to forgive any type of sin that others commit: lying, thefts, deceit, rebellion, murder, and adultery.

4) God forgives fully without expecting payback
When God sees true repentance, He forgives (1 Kings 8:47-50, Acts 3:19, Acts 5:31, Acts 8:22). He does not hold grudges, wait to see if the person will “prove themselves worthy of forgiveness,” or “get even.” Those are all human actions. 

As Christians, we are commanded, 
“If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” (Luke 17:3-4) 

Nothing is said of conditional forgiveness (“Forgive if . . .”). Actually, we are commanded to not retaliate or get even (Proverbs 24:29, Romans 12:19, 1 Thessalonians 5:15, 1 Peter 3:9).

5) God does not “just forgive”
God’s forgiveness reaches far beyond the words, “You are forgiven.” 

When God forgives, He also heals (2 Chronicles 7:14, Psalm 103:3), cleanses (1 John 1:9), covers (Psalm 85:2) and forgets (Jeremiah 31:34). 

Following His example, we should be ready to restore and heal the relationships – not “turn a cold shoulder.” We should be willing to cover the sins of others – not gossip about them and unearth them for others to see.

With these five points (a deeper study on the character of God’s forgiveness would reveal many more), we see that there are some things that we cannot do with forgiveness:
~Forgive and stay angry (Ecclesiastes 7:9, Ephesians 4:26)
~Forgive and continually bring up the case (Psalm 85:2)
~Forgive and hate our brother (1 John 2:9-12, 1 John 3:15-16)
~Forgive and gossip about our brother (Leviticus 19:16, Proverbs 11:13)
~Forgive and retaliate/get even (Matthew 5:39-42, Romans 12:17, 1 Peter 3:9)
~Forgive and hold a grudge (Leviticus 19:18, Proverbs 24:29, Romans 12:19, James 5:9)

To forgive like Christ forgives us seems difficult if not impossible. But we can be assured that in any trouble we face, we can go to Christ, Who knows exactly how to help us.  
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

With every problem, God gives a solution. Our case is not a “singular exception” but rather something that all men struggle with. 

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

To forgive is not an easy path, but for the believer, it is the right path. We must daily choose whether or not we will follow the right path that God has set before us.

Previously published on May 2, 2013
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