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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Fiction Review--Restored: Never Give Up Hope

Restored: Never Give Up Hope, by Kimberly Rae is the third book in The Broken Series. I’ve reviewed the first two books, Shredded (here) and Shattered (here). They’re about childhood sexual abuse and human trafficking and slavery. These three books are best read in order so that you know the characters and understand the backstories.

Slash, the trafficker of women, is in prison for murder and attempted murder. Elderly Florence is about to be married, and horror of all horrors, bridesmaid Candy—a former prostitute—is trying on her bridesmaid gown. It’s bright yellow polyester and covered in yellow tulle. It even features puffed sleeves and a bow! No way is Candy going down any aisle in that!

The fashion emergency ends once and for all when Florence sees her. She’s so pleased! “Candy, you look exactly as I always imagined my bridesmaids would look . . . . You probably feel silly wearing something so old-fashioned, but it means so much to me to see this dress that I dreamed of for years . . . .” Candy wonders if she’ll get a reward of heaven. She knows she’ll have to wear it. At least Jean has one, too!

Grant is still in the hospital, depressed and trying to figure out his possibilities. He’s in denial about his paralysis and not dealing with that at all. He doesn’t understand that his fiancée, Jean, is working through even more than he is—and she’s sleep deprived.

Jean tries on her yellow polyester creation while Candy uses the opportunity to have a heart-to-heart with Grant. She tells him he’s being selfish and a few other things. She also confides in him about her fears—which are life-and-death reality.

Champagne is missing, and someone’s talking to the media. Slash will soon be released from jail, and Candy feels her world is turning upside down. Plus, Candy realizes if she talks, her friends might be killed. She’s afraid. She doesn’t want to paint big round targets on everyone she loves.

Read this wonderful concluding book to find out what happens when Florence gets married, Slash gets out of jail, and two others secretly get married and search for answers. I know you’ll enjoy this and be challenged anew to reach others for Christ. No one is beyond His reach and His forgiveness.

There is some violence, no sensuality outside of marriage (only hinted at), and no bad language. This is a distinctly Christian book and the perfect ending to this series. It's probably not for teens due to the adult subject matter.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

What Can You Give God?

My husband recently showed me this verse: Give unto the LORD, O ye mighty, give unto the LORD glory and strength (Psalm 29:1). Did you ever think about it? I mean, did you ever think it strange that we could give God anything? Yet, here it is: the Great God of the Universe wants us—commands us—to give Him glory and strength!

When we go through the Bible, God does most of the giving—to sinful man. How could He love us like this?

But, what does God want us to give Him? You might be surprised!

Glory and strength—1 Chronicles 16:29; Psalm 29:2; 96:7-8; 115:1; Isaiah 42:12; and 1 Samuel 6:5. It was hard to get my head around this concept, so I looked up what it means to give glory to God. This is what I found: “We ‘ascribe’ or give glory to Him because it is His due. No one else deserves the praise and worship that we give to glorify Him. . . . We also glorify God by rehearsing His attributes and His deeds. To glorify God is to extol His attributes—His holiness, faithfulness, mercy, grace, love, majesty, sovereignty, power, and omniscience, to name a few—rehearsing them over and over in our minds and telling others about the singular nature of the salvation only He offers.”* What is the Bible saying when we give God strength? Doesn’t He have all power already? Of course, He does! This is talking about lending Him our own efforts, so that He can use them for His glory. That’s why, in so many of these verses, glory and strength go together.

Tithes and offerings—Genesis 28:22; Exodus 30:14; Leviticus 23:38; Numbers 15:21; Deuteronomy 15:14; 16:10; 18:4; 1 Chronicles 16:29; and Psalm 96:8. A tithe was/is the expected amount of giving from any believer—a tenth of any gross income. In some of these passages, it’s about crops. In two of them, it refers to dough, as a heave offering. (I had to chuckle about a tenth of the dough!) An offering can refer to the tithe and also above the tithe, an offering of love. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Songs of praise, thanks—Judges 5:3; 2 Samuel 22:50; 1 Chronicles 16:8, 34; Psalm 18:49; 30:12; 105:1; 106:1, 47; 107:1; 118:1, 29; 122:4; and 136:1. Anyone who’s ever read the book of Psalms should know that God loves praise. He wants to be adored, and He wants us to be thankful. A heart of praise and thanks pleases Him. Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name (Psalm 100:1, 2-4).

On one occasion, a mother (Hannah) gave God her firstborn child in service to God. This is how she prayed: And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head (1 Samuel 1:11). God answered her prayer, gave her Samuel, who was given back to the Lord in Tabernacle service. After Samuel, God blessed her with five more children.

Serving others is the same as giving service to Christ Himself. Jesus told this parable: Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me (Matthew 25:34-40).

What does God want from Christians? Glory, strength, tithes and offerings, singing, praise, thanks, and service.

I wonder. What are we giving God today?



Friday, July 14, 2017

Thirty-nine Years: Where Did They Go?

We were married in my home church on a steamy day in July. Mostly, the wedding went without a snag. I was a glowing bride. Not enjoying being the center of attention, my husband wanted the wedding to be over as soon as possible. We held the reception at my home, and before we knew it, we were driving away in our little red Volkswagen Beetle. My cousins and the groomsmen did a thorough job of rigging our little car with cans, pebbles in the hubcaps, and a few other interesting surprises. It was all in fun, and we drove down the highway, clanging and losing cans as we went. People stared and we were laughing. Our first stop was a car wash, and our second was Lloyd’s Steak House. After a hardy meal, we drove to our honeymoon spot, a rented cabin.

A few months later, our car’s engine blew a rod. We didn't have a car, and I still needed a job. (No one ever told me an art degree wasn’t practical without experience!) We bought another car for $200. It was worth even less than that.

Two years went by, and my husband was an ordained gospel minister and had earned his master’s degree in Bible. Both of us were working full-time and searching for God’s will. We were volunteers for the mission field. Our problem was that the world’s a big place, and we didn’t know where God wanted us.

Through open and closed doors, the Lord began to show us His way. It was incredible to watch even while it was happening. Soon, we were on deputation to work with veteran missionaries. The die was cast. It took us two years to raise support, and then we left for Spain, taking our deputation baby with us.

Near the JFK airport, the day we left for Spain
In 1984, Spain was much more primitive than it is now. The highways were only two lanes, and there were lots of potholes and trucks. The cars weren’t very comfortable, either. (That’s an understatement!) We jostled along in our co-workers’ Siata van and began the eight-hour trip to our new home. We’d lost two whole nights of sleep and said good-bye to our families, and we still had eight hours ahead of us! I’m surprised we made it through that day. We ended up in our co-workers’ bedroom, while they slept on their foldout couch.

In our thirty-nine-year marriage, we’ve lived in eight different homes, five of those in Spain. We’ve parented and homeschooled two delightful children. We've had the joy of seeing them married to wonderful spouses and having children of their own. We learned Spanish from zero, served in two churches on the field, and have remodeled two of the places we lived—while living in them. We’ve tent camped in fields in Europe (back in the days when you could legally do that), and our family  laughs about it. Oh, the memories!

at the Roman aqueduct, Segovia, Spain

My husband and I have learned a lot together, especially about yielding and kindness. We’ve found out that fighting isn’t worth it; it’s much more pleasant to live in peace. We enjoy being together and appreciate comfortable silences. Over the years, we’ve almost switched roles. A lot of times now, my husband is the funny one—and I’m the one that needs the levity. We understand each other so well that we finish each other’s sentences and translate the other’s thoughts (a bilingual issue). And now that we’re older, we try to take care of each other. It’s almost cute!

We love the same atmosphere—quiet, trees, beauty, and birdsong. There’s nothing like walking through towns with hundreds of years of history. We enjoy beautiful architecture and cobblestone streets, antique shops, and interesting people. We both also love smiling dogs.

It’s a funny thing to be married this long. You look back over a lifetime. In our case, we had a “life before Spain” and then most of our lives (coming up on thirty-three years) here. 

My husband has proved through the years to be kind, faithful, and a servant to all. He’s consistent and constantly growing and maturing. He’s wonderful! I am so privileged to go through life with him.

This is one of the Bible verses that was printed on our wedding invitations:

O magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together.
(Psalm 34:3)

This is still our goal as a married couple. With whatever time we have left, we want to magnify the Lord's name together.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Someone Wants You Dead (and the Good News)

Cults of death are nothing new, but they take different forms. There’s a Netflix show, 13 Reasons Why about the reasons a girl named Hannah commits suicide. There’s a new club called “The Blue Whale” which instructs members to perform certain tasks. The last one before death is carving the image of a blue whale on one’s forearm. After that, the participant is told to kill himself. A teen girl coaches her boyfriend to commit suicide in his truck. "Don't think about it; just do it," she says. I remember when I was in junior high school that some of the kids in my hometown killed other young people in a Satanic ritual.

Why would anyone think it was okay to commit suicide or kill someone else? Why would any teen actually play a suicide game?

Because someone wants everyone dead.

On June 24, CNN aired a special report about Silicon Valley and the executives that had committed suicide. Why did they do it? Because they felt the pressure to always be strong and successful, to never be down, never fail. When they suffered mentally, they felt they couldn’t share their feelings with anyone else. So, they went further down into deep depression. Some took their own lives.

Someone wanted them dead.

Parents published a unique obituary for their daughter, who hung herself. She’d been bullied at school. Her parents sent a message to the bullies, telling them they’d been effective in making their daughter feel worthless. She was a beautiful teen with long red hair. Why would anyone bully her?

Someone wanted her to consider suicide.

It has always been this way. Satan wants to kill people. He can’t stand the thought that humans would want to live happy lives and serve God. He is constantly lying to people’s minds so they think if they kill themselves, they’ll be done with their suffering. Even some Christians believe this lie.

Read these descriptions of Satan all through the Bible:
  • God said, But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die (Genesis 2:17). Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die (Genesis 3:1-4). When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they died spiritually. Later, they died physically, too. Before sin, there was no death. The Bible describes it this way, Wherefore, as by one man (Adam) sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned (Romans 5:12).
  • Jesus said, Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it (John 8:44).
  • When God gave Satan permission to afflict Job, Satan would have killed him, but the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life (Job 2:6).
  • Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve (Luke 22:3). And, Judas decided to betray Jesus, so that the Jewish leaders could kill Him.
  • Jesus said, And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28).
  • Jesus said, I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God (John 8:37, 40).
  • Jesus said, The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly (John 10:10).
  • The Apostle Paul was instructing the believers about a disobedient brother: To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 5:5).
  • Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).
  • Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil (Hebrews 2:14).

Satan—the devil—is the person who wants to drag everyone he can to their deaths. He would like for everyone to go to hell, too. By the way, hell wasn’t made for people. Jesus said that the everlasting fire was prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41b). It’s sad and unnecessary that any humans would go there!

The devil wants death, but the good news is that Jesus is life! What a contrast!

Jesus said, The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy:
I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life:
no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
(John 14:6)

And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son,
and believeth on him, may have everlasting life:
and I will raise him up at the last day.
(John 6:40)

There’s even more good news! The devil was conquered at the cross. His end is sure. This will happen after the millennial reign of Christ: And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever (Revelation 20:10).

Jesus died so that you don’t need to die. He paid the price for your sins on the cross. Probably the best-known Bible verse of all is this:

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.
(John 3:16)

Do you know Him? Jesus came to give you LIFE.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

"Shall We Dance?"

Almost every baby moves to music. He might bob up and down to the rhythm—or not quite with the rhythm. It’s so cute!

I have a life-long love affair with music, especially classical. When I was in junior high, I would put on Tchaikovsky and twirl around our living room. I was a prima ballerina! I could float! When someone entered the room, I’d quit immediately in total embarrassment. (I’ve never had ballet lessons.) But, I remember the pure joy of moving to the music.

Just a few years later, when I was a teen, I heard lots of preaching railing against certain sins. Smoking and drinking topped the list. After those: going to theaters, “mixed bathing” (meaning men and women swimming in the same pool at the same time), dancing, women wearing pants, and playing cards with a regular card deck. This list always rankled me. I have never smoked or drunk alcohol. I don’t play cards or gamble, and I prefer skirts. But dancing? What was wrong with dancing? What was the big deal? After all, in the Bible, we read:
  • They send forth their little ones like a flock, and their children dance (Job 21:11).
  • Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp (Psalm 149:3).
  • Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs (Psalm 150:4).
  • A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance (Ecclesiastes 3:4).
  • Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, both young men and old together: for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow (Jeremiah 31:13).
It seemed to me like dancing was one of the ways people praised God and expressed their joy. I was right! Consider these passages:
  • And as the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal Saul's daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the LORD (2 Samuel 6:16a).
  • Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness (Psalm 30:11).
  • Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing (The Parable of the Prodigal Son, Luke 15:25).

What kind of dancing was this? What dancing is God-inspired? How does a Christian—did believers in the Old Testament—show joy and worship in dance?

Perhaps it would be easier to understand what it wasn’t:
  1. Dancing for God wasn’t sensual. You can be sure that pure, joyful, holy dancing didn’t mean moving the body in a sensual way. It might have been similar to Israeli line dancing or holding hands in a circle. David was actually leaping in joy. But, this dancing was not anything like what we usually think of when we hear the word dance. It was probably more like shuffling and hops than sinuous movement.
  2. Dancing for God wasn’t performed in revealing clothing. How do I know this? Biblical dance pleased God, and He wants us to be modest.
  3. Dancing for God wasn’t choreographed. It was an expression of spontaneous joy. I may be reading between the lines, here, but in all the instances I remember of dance in the Bible, the people merely expressed their joy in dance. Miriam led the women with a tambourine in her hand after God had led the Israelites over the Red Sea on dry land. David danced before the Lord when the ark was returned. In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, there was joyful dancing at the party for his return. You don’t see these people planning out their movements; they just moved joyfully.
  4. If there was music with biblical dancing, it was beautiful and honored God’s holiness. What did it sound like? I have no idea. Maybe it was like Hebrew folk music. But, you can be sure that the rhythms and melodies were beautiful and God honoring.
Only one time have I ever been in a church service where liturgical dance took place. I was a teen, and my family was visiting an aunt. With her, we attended the nearest church of her denomination. They celebrated the Lord’s Supper, and there was a segment with dancers. They were modestly dressed—in long, white robes—and their movements were similar to classical ballet, lots of arms swaying and walking across the platform with graceful strides. All the dancers were women. At the time, I thought it was the strangest thing I'd ever seen. It felt like a performance and out of place.

So, we ask the question: can a Christian dance and please God?

Personally, I believe dance should be in two separate categories: secular and sacred. While I see nothing wrong with many folk dances—they wear modest clothing, and the movements are fine—I’m not sure I’d want to see folk dancing in a church service. In the church, I believe it’s debatable that dance can serve a purpose. In Acts and the New Testament, the beginning of the church era, you don’t see dancing in the services. There’s singing, praying, and preaching, but you never see dance. Does a performance of dance actually add to worshipping God? I’ll let you decide.

Can your child take ballet or participate in folk dancing? You can make up your own mind about that, based on the criteria of modesty, music, and movements. Pray, and ask God to help you decide.

Should Christians attend "dances"? I don’t think so. Let me share why. (These are all true stories.)
  • Years ago, a dance club decided that only married couples should dance together. Within a short time, the participants weren’t even interested any more. Why? Obviously, there was more to the dancing than the dancing.
  • A church began having non-alcohol dance nights for their teens. Most of those teens aren’t even in church today.
  • Christian teens attended community swing dances. The kids wore very short skirts and had lots of physical contact between the sexes. Some of these teens are out of church and dating unsaved friends that they met out dancing.
  • Strictly Come Dancing, Dancing With the Stars, and other popular TV contests never feature perfectly clean, non-sensual dancing. The women’s costumes are immodest. How can you say you love the Lord and participate in something like that?
  • Most music that people dance to is sensual. There’s a beat that just begs a person to move his hips and slip his spine.
  • When a friend of mine was a teenager, her girlfriends convinced her to join them at a discotheque. She was a new Christian at the time. She told us, “When I entered that place, I could tell I left Jesus outside.” What she meant was that the atmosphere negated her identity as a Christian. She soon made an excuse and left.
I still haven’t figured out how to praise the Lord in the dance, though I'm sure our Old Testament examples actually did. I don’t see that dancing has a role in biblical New Testament church worship.

But, I sometimes watch folk dancing, Fred Astaire, The Sound of Music, and Gene Kelly. I don’t have any issues with modest, non-sensual dancing in a purely secular context.

What do you think? Shall we dance?