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Monday, October 24, 2016

Vicarious Thrills: How They Mess Up Your Heart

I was first exposed to romance novels when I was maybe eleven or twelve years old—Grace Livingstone Hill. I think I read everything she ever wrote. Boy meets girl. One is rich. One is poor. One is Christian. One is not. The chemistry is there, and they date, and on a June day, they marry. By their wedding day, the other one is a Christian, too, and everything ends with hearts and flowers.

I got over Grace Livingstone Hill about the age of fifteen. Her novels were too predictable, so very unreal, and I was discontent. I still read romances, though. Some were great, and some not so great. I loved Christy by Catherine Marshall and Victoria Holt’s gothic novels. I enjoyed Phyllis Whitney, because I like to be a little bit scared along with the romance. At about twenty-five, I read a few by Barbara Cartland, the grande dame of romance stories—and began to dislike romance all together.


It’s because romance novels manipulate your emotions. They make you fall in love with the protagonist. They make you believe a lie, feel the thrills of that lie, and they keep you turning pages to read about illicit or unreal love affairs . . . . Ultimately, they make you discontent with your life.

I’ve never read “hot” stories. I have never read an erotic book. I rarely even read any authors other than those in the “Christian” genre. Yet, even in Amish and Christian titles, some of the romances titillate the senses, describe scenes only found in fairy tales, and cause thousands of wives to be discontent—and addicted to the stories—because the stories satisfy, in a morbid sort of way. By dissatisfying, they draw you back for more vicarious thrills . . . and leave you feeling emptier than ever . . . in your heart.

(I could extend this post to other genres, of course, but for the sake of simplicity, we’ll stay with fiction romance novels.)

It’s hard to draw a line. The truth is that some women are more or less affected, and each woman understands her own reaction. Does the fiction arouse in you feelings of voyeurism? Is the story about scenes that are better left behind closed doors? Is there any immorality going on, or is there too much description of touching? Does it make you short of breath? Does the story cause you to think, “I wish my husband were more like the protagonist?” You know how the fiction you read affects you. You know if your emotions and thoughts go in the wrong direction. You know if the end result is despising your husband because he doesn’t: read your thoughts, hug you with perfect timing, show up and slay all your dragons, say the exact words you want to hear when you want to hear them, compliment you, etc., etc. If you’re single, do the books you read make you crave a man?

What does God think of novels (or any other kinds of entertainment) that describe lustful scenes?
  • I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple (innocent) concerning evil (Romans 16:19b).
  • For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret (Ephesians 5:12).
  • But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death (James 1:14-15).
  • For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world (1 John 2:16).
If you are reading, and you experience what I’ve described above, the course of action is simple: 
  1. Close the book. Quit. Stop. Don’t go back to it. If you're reading a paperback, the recycling container is a great place for it. On Kindle, you can “archive” it to get rid of it on your menu.
  2. Get into the Bible. Replace lustful thinking with God’s thoughts. They are higher, nobler, purer. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Philippians 4:8).
  3. Enjoy your husband as he is. He’s real. The story is not. Let your conversation (way of life) be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have (Hebrews 13:5a). If you’re single, you need the same: contentment with what you have now. (That’s what this verse is saying.)
Vicarious thrills have spoiled many a good marriage. They've cooked up expectations that no human being could ever meet. Many women have become bitter and discontent. These cause singles to believe that all they need is a man.

A romance novel is fiction—a made-up story. Almost all romance is written by women to sell to women. So, they make up the hottest, most exciting story they can dream up, write it down, and get it published, so that many women all over the world will flip pages and vicariously experience the pleasure.

I think it’s time for Christian women to analyze what they feed their minds: novels, TV, entertainment, online viewing, music videos, movies, and even porn. It’s time for us to draw lines for ourselves and exercise discipline. We want to please God and enjoy a normal, content, and happy life. Choose clean, wholesome authors. Choose books that contain a lot more than romance--where the romance isn't the main thing. Try adventure, male authors, and suspense.

May God bless you!

This I say then,
Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
(Galatians 5:16)

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Tribute to My Friend, Rachael

Photo furnished by the family
(La traducción en español viene después del inglés.)

My dear friend Rachael went to be with the Lord this week. 

Rachael was a wife, mother, and missionary whose godly example was evident to everyone who knew her.

I remember when the family lived in very simple conditions. The children were small, and their rented house had its issues. But, all I ever heard from Rachael was praise to God for meeting their needs. She never complained and never expressed a desire for things to be different.

Rachael was the mother of seven children: three sons and four daughters. She wanted all of them to follow the Lord first and foremost. She wept over her children and prayed for them. Most of all, she loved them. She loved her husband and took good care of him.

When their family circumstances improved, Rachael made her new home pretty with knickknacks, family decorations, and green plants. She loved having flowers outside, too.

Rachael homeschooled more years than I’d like to think about. Five of her children have graduated from Bible college, and one has served in the Marines. The eldest two are married. She had three grandchildren.

Rachael and her husband Dwayne have served faithfully in Oviedo, Spain for about forty years. Together, they have persevered. Today, the church has a beautiful storefront building that’s practical for all kinds of activities.

I’ve watched Rachael lead both ladies’ meetings and small Bible studies. She had an uncanny way of identifying with other women and making the Bible come alive for them. She loved women’s ministry, truly enjoyed counseling, and more than anything, she loved discipling young believers.

Rachael had a gorgeous singing voice. Her soprano was clear and strong.

She had a servant’s heart. Many don’t know it, but in recent years she worked tirelessly to edit a book in both Spanish and English. She spent many hours on tedious comparisons with the original, making sure the new publisher would be happy.

Rachael’s passing makes me happy for her—and very sad for her family and me. We will miss her pretty face and beaming smile. We’ll miss her hospitality. We’ll miss her friendship.

Rachael was a close personal friend and confidant. We loved each other as sisters in the Lord. I grieve with her family, and my heart goes out to them. I am praying for them.

Rachael is with the Lord. She is no longer battling cancer or facing difficult treatments. It was her appointed time, and Jesus welcomed her Home. I look forward to seeing her again in Glory, where we will walk the streets of gold together, enjoy the river, and look at the trees. I will once again hear her laughter and see her smile.

A woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.
(Proverbs 31:30b)

Well done, good and faithful servant;
thou hast been faithful over a few things,
I will make thee ruler over many things:
enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
(from Matthew 25:23)


(I don’t often translate my blog, but in this instance, I am. Friends in Spain may want to read this in Spanish.)

Mi querida amiga Raquel entró en la presencia de su Señor esta semana. 

Raquel era una esposa, madre, y misionera. Su testimonio piadoso era evidente a todos que la conocieron.

Recuerdo cuando la familia vivía en condiciones bien sencillas. Los niños eran pequeños y la casa alquilada tenía sus problemas, pero lo que oía de la Hermana Raquel era alabanza al Señor por proveer sus necesidades. No se quejaba, y no expresó el deseo para cambiar su situación.

Raquel tuvo siete hijos: tres varones y cuatro hijas. Quería sobre todo que sus hijos agradaran al Señor. Lloraba por ellos y oraba por ellos. Mayormente, los amaba. Amaba siempre a sus esposo y cuidaba de él.

Cuando las circunstancias mejoraron, Raquel decoró su nueva casa con pequeñas cositas bonitas, decoraciones heredadas, y plantas verdes. Le gustaba tener flores por fuera en el jardín también.

Raquel educaba a los hijos en casa. ¡Fueron tantos años que yo no quiero pensármelo! Cinco de sus hijos se graduaron con estudios universitarios en un colegio bíblico, y un hijo ha servido a su Patria en las fuerzas marinas. Los dos hijos mayores están casados, y Raquel tenía tres nietos.

Raquel y su marido Jorge han servido fielmente en Oviedo, Asturias durante aproximadamente cuarenta años. Han perseverado juntos. Hoy día la iglesia tiene un precioso local que es útil para muchas actividades.

He observado a Raquel mientras guiaba reuniones de mujeres y también estudios bíblicos más íntimos. Tenía una manera única para indentificarse con las demás y ayudarlas entender la Biblia claramente. A Raquel le encantaba el ministerio a las mujeres, le gustaba darles consejos bíblicos, y más que nada gozaba de discipular a las recién convertidas.

Raquel tenía una voz soprano, preciosa y fuerte.

Tenía un corazón de sierva. Muchos no lo saben, pero en los últimos años trabajaba duramente para editar un libro en ambos inglés y español. Gastaba muchas horas comparando el texto del original con la revisión, asegurando que el nuevo publicación saldría bien.

La muerte de Raquel me hace feliz por ella—y muy triste por su familia y por mi. Echaremos de menos su bella carita y su sonrisa. Echaremos de menos su hospitalidad. Echaremos de menos su amistad.

Raquel era una amiga intima. Nos queríamos como hermanas en la fe. Acompaño a la familia en su dolor, y estoy orando por ellos.

Raquel está con el Señor. Ahora no está batallando el cáncer ni haciendo frente a tratamientos difíciles. Fue su tiempo, y Jesucristo le dio la bienvenida a casa. Anhelo verla de nuevo en la gloria, donde andaremos juntas en las calles de oro, gozando del río, y mirando los árboles. De nuevo oiré su risa y la veré sonreír.

La mujer que teme a Jehová, esa será alabada.
(Proverbios 31:30b)

Bien, buen siervo y fiel; 
sobre poco has sido fiel, 
sobre mucho te pondré; 
entra en el gozo de tu señor.
(de Mateo 25:23)