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Monday, April 24, 2017

Fiction Review: Shattered


Shattered, by Kimberly Rae is Book Two in her "Broken Series." It’s helpful if you’ve read the first book, Shredded, before this one. (You can access my review, here.) The first book will give you the background stories before you begin, and you’ll be acquainted with most of the characters.

Note: I think Shattered is for adults only. The book is about human trafficking, prostitution, and a strip club. It’s a clean book. There are no suggestive scenes, but there is some violence, “ownership” of the girls, and these topics aren’t for young people to be exposed to on this level. I think most girls eighteen years old would be ready for this, though. If you’re a mother, you might want to read it first and make your own judgment. There is some premarital kissing.

The story begins with the prostitute “Champagne” being horribly beaten. Her friend Candy rescues her and takes Champagne to Jean’s home for recovery—and hiding. What Candy doesn’t know is that Slash (Champagne’s owner) has made a deal with Champagne: she furnishes him with details about all the Christians’ lives, and he will wreak revenge on them. Champagne is good with a computer, and in the weeks it takes her to heal, she has dug up all the “dirt” she can find on those who are helping her. She knows their backgrounds, their whereabouts, and their habits . . . even though she can’t at all understand their self-control.

Living with Jean is like living in a dreamworld for Champagne. She can hardly believe the purity of the relationship she watches day and night. It’s weird, but it’s wonderful, too. These people really practice what they preach!

Candy has organized the church ladies to minister to a strip club she knows. The owner of the strip club is antagonistic, but he lets them in to distribute flowers and chocolate to the girls. The church ladies have never been anywhere like this! They’re afraid. What in the world will they talk about? Soon, Florence is chatting to the girls as if they were her own. They think she’s a hoot, but they trust her—an old church lady coming to a place like this and giving us nice things. The pastor’s wife goes, too, but she has to exit and throw up—more than once.

Soon, Slash begins his revenge on the Christians who robbed him of Candy. He doesn’t do the dirty work himself. He hires killers.

You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens. This is a great book with a huge heart. It brings up the questions:
  • Do we really care about prostitutes and trafficked people? Jesus does.
  • Are we trying to reach the lost—even those who hate us? Jesus does.
  • Are we willing to put aside our differences and build bridges to others so that we can share Christ?
  • Can we trust God in the face of death?
  • Is God still good when Christians suffer?

Find out what happens to the Christians in the story, to Candy, Champagne, and the church. You’ll be challenged. I promise.

There’s a thoughtful study guide at the end of the book, if you’d like to use it with a ladies’ group.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Insecurity is a Good Thing


I should know. I must have been the most insecure little girl on the planet. I was afraid of everything. When my mother left us kids in the car to pop in to the supermarket, I was the one you’d find hunkering between front and back seats so no one would see me. I enjoyed a stable family life, lots of love, and fun with my brother, cousins, and neighbors. I suffered no traumas. I had no reason for insecurity, but I was a scaredy-cat, if ever there was one.

When I was seventeen, I absolutely refused to walk into our town’s post office—because I had never been inside and was afraid of the unknown. (It was that day that my mother began to have serious reservations about sending me off to college, where everything and almost everyone would be unknown.) Insecurity? I think I had a corner on the market!

Even though most people aren’t basket cases like I was, most of us feel insecure about many things in life. For example:
  • social occasions
  • speaking opportunities
  • personal appearance
  • how to handle something unfamiliar
  • changes in schedules
  • moving from one city to another—or one country to another
  • when we’re criticized
  • occupational changes
  • accidents
. . . We could go on and on!

Insecurity is common to mankind! We all have our hang-ups. I would say that everyone—even a person you think is full of confidence—has areas of insecurity.

Why is this a good thing?

Anything that motivates us to turn to the Lord is a good thing!

Back in high school, when I was such a needy young lady, I chose this Bible verse to hang onto: Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it (1 Thessalonians 5:24). It’s a promise that’s gone with me ever since: God is faithful. He will do it. What a blessing! It doesn’t depend on me. Whatever God calls me to do, He can do it. He will do it!

Do you have insecurities? Be encouraged; God’s Word says:
  • The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)
  • Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass (Psalm 37:5).
  • And the LORD shall help them, and deliver them: he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in him (Psalm 37:40).
  • For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:26-31).
  • That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power (Ephesians 1:17-19).
  • Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:1).

Jesus Christ is our security. He promises to always be with us.* We can depend on Him to help us do His will. What a wonderful God we have!



* Hebrews 13:5b


Saturday, April 15, 2017

"Brokenness" is in Style, But It Doesn't Have to Be


Everyone has times in their lives when they feel broken. It’s actually positive to be broken before a Holy God and to cry out to Him. We need Him for salvation and for strength every day. In times of sorrow and need, we feel broken. That’s normal, and it’s even good.

But, today, brokenness seems to have become a fad.

“I am broken. Feel for me.”

“I am broken, therefore I’m more spiritual.”

“I am broken all the time.”

Many people truly are broken. Too many have suffered abuse. Some have physical difficulties—even chronic illnesses they deal with every single day. Others have been through unspeakable traumas: war, emotional or physical abuse, substance addictions, overwhelming debt, etc. They need help and nurturing to get back on their feet.

Everyone needs the cure for spiritual brokenness. Jesus said, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Mark 2:17b). Jesus came that we might have eternal life. I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly (John 10:10b). I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness (John 12:46).

Jesus doesn’t want us to remain broken, lost, and in darkness. He wants to give us eternal life. More than that, He wants us to live a full, abundant, productive, joyful, and fruitful life.

It is a biblical concept to “die every day.” The Apostle Paul said, I die daily. It’s interesting that the rest of the verse is totally different: I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily (1 Corinthians 15:31). What’s he talking about? He’s talking about “dying” to sin, surrendering his will to God’s on a daily basis. Consider what Paul wrote in Romans: Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:11). Yes, we all need to die to sin, and we also need to be alive unto God.

The above passage about dying daily ends like this: O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:55-58).

Yes, we’re broken. Yes, we’re actually more spiritual if we die to sin (and put away any pride about it! God hates pride.) But, Christians don’t need to stay “broken” all the time.

We need Jesus. We need Him to fix us daily. We need to depend fully on Him, so that we can live in victory.

Thankfully, total, joyful victory is available through Jesus!

Jesus said, These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

He completely understands your problems. Seeing then that we have a great high priest . . . Jesus the Son of God . . . . 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 (from Hebrews 4:14-16).

How can we live each day “fixed” instead of broken? I’ve found these verses to be invaluable: Be careful (“full of care,” or “anxious”) for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 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 4:6-8).

Notice a formula in those verses:
  1. Put away anxiety. How?
  2. Pray asking God for help. At the same time, thank God for whatever He will do.
  3. After prayer, God gives awesome peace which ministers to both heart and mind.
  4. Change your thinking. Focus on things that are: true, honest, fair, pure, lovely, good, virtuous, and praiseworthy.
The Lord Jesus is in the business of healing brokenness. He invites us. Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).

Are you broken? Go to Jesus.

Thanks be to God,
which giveth us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.



Monday, April 10, 2017

How Well Do You Know Your Bible: A Quiz for You


How well do you know your Bible?

Let’s take a ten-question Bible trivia quiz and see how you do. (All answers are yes or no.)
  1. Is there any mention of Jesus in the Old Testament?
  2. Does the Bible actually say to treat others as you would like to be treated?
  3. At the end of Solomon’s life, was he serving God?
  4. Was Samson—who committed suicide—a true believer?
  5. Did Hannah have any children after Samuel?
  6. Was Joshua’s army always victorious?
  7. Can you name the three people in the Bible who have no grave?
  8. Was Mary, the mother of Jesus, a perpetual virgin?
  9. Yes or no: the Holy Spirit can assume different forms.
  10. Yes or no: the "beloved disciple," John, wrote five books of the Bible. (*Answers below.)
You may have gotten them all right. If so, congratulations! If not, well, some of the questions are a little bit obscure. They’re all fairly general Bible knowledge questions, though, and most people should know most of them.

Even if you got them all right, do you know how to study your Bible and actually learn something from it for yourself? Are you acquainted with Jesus? Do you have a personal relationship with Him? When you read your Bible, do you feel that God is speaking straight to you? Does He point out your sins and urge you to live more like Christ?

Here's some practical advice:
  • Start reading the Bible. Read it without anything else. Just read the Bible. It is the Word of God and in it are the Words of Life. If you’ve never really read it, I like the book of John in the New Testament for a start. It’s about Jesus, His life, His miracles, and especially His divinity—that He is God. After John, you can read Acts (about the early church) and Romans (basic doctrines). After those, you will want to read all of the Bible for yourself!
  • Pray before you read each day. Ask God to open His Word to you. Ask God for understanding.
  • Interpret the Scriptures literally, unless it’s obvious that it’s an allegory. Compare Scripture with Scripture.
  • Write down what you’re learning. Some people keep devotional journals. I usually just write down main points about what I’ve seen. Sometimes, I use those points to go back and study later. Sometimes, it’s a question. What did God mean by this? I go to commentaries to see if they understand the passage. I also look for cross-references that may shed light on my question.
  • Share with others. The Bible is a living Book, and it’s meant to be shared. Not only can it give us spiritual life and enrichment; it can do the same for others.

May God bless you as you get into the Bible for yourself!

_________________

* Answers: 1. Yes, many. 2. Yes, in Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31. 3. No, his wives led him astray (1 Kings 11:4). 4. Yes, though he was away from God for a time (Judges 16:28). 5. Yes, God rewarded her with five more children (1 Samuel 2:21). 6. No. It was because of God's judgment on Achan’s sin (Joshua 7:1-26). 7. Did you remember these: Enoch (God took him.), Elijah (went to heaven in a fiery chariot), and Moses (God buried him, and no one has seen the grave.) You could also say Jesus, because His grave is empty. Praise God! 8. No, she had more than one daughter and four sons after Jesus. The sons’ names were: James, Joses, Simon, and Judas (Matthew 13:55-56; Mark 6:3). 9. Yes. We know He took on the form of a dove and tongues of fire. 10. Yes, he did: the Gospel of John, 1, 2, and 3 John, and Revelation. How did you do?



Wednesday, April 5, 2017

You Can't Prevent Sexist Remarks All the Time, But . . .


The Daily Mail’s (United Kingdom) opening story was a feature about a meeting between the Prime Minister, Theresa May, and Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland. One can imagine the importance of such a meeting, the ideas exchanged, and the gravity of the situation, as “Brexit” (the British exit from the United Kingdom) was just around the corner. What was the photo? A picture of the two women seated together, focusing on their legs. The title said, “Never Mind Brexit, Who Won Legs-It!” Inappropriate and sexist? Absolutely!*

Now, Mrs. May and Nicola Sturgeon are both known for their sharp and (usually) modest clothing. The skirts they wore weren’t actually short, but when they sat down, they rode up. The photographer chose a low angle, which maximized their legs, and this photo ended up on the front cover of the newspaper.

If you’re a woman, and you want to prevent people thinking of you as your body instead of your ideas, I have some great tips for you. (Some people are twisted and only see people as bodies. They have a problem! You can’t prevent all sexist talk.) But, you can go a long way to prevent people ignoring your ideas and objectifying your body.

Here are my tips:
  1. When you try on skirts or dresses, before buying, make sure you can sit modestly. Sit on the seat in the dressing room. See how far the hem rides up. If it’s above the knee, from any distance, it looks short. If it covers the top of your knee, you need to keep your knees together and not cross your legs. If it covers your knee completely, you’re safe.
  2. If you will be seated on a platform or in a public space—anywhere—make sure your skirt is quite long.
  3. Be careful with low-cut tops. If necessary, layer.
  4. Watch armholes in sleeveless clothing. After trying on your outfit, stand next to a mirror. Stand sideways, and even look at the backside of the arm opening. Lift your arm. Move around a little. Can people beside or behind you see more than you would like them to? If so, consider buying clothes with armholes close to the arm—or wear sleeves.
  5. Be alert to tightness. The other day, I saw a news presenter who was wearing a top that completely covered her body. It was in a bright, pretty color. Over that top, she wore a black cardigan that buttoned just under the bust, leaving her curves popping out of it—in an eye-catching color! She was covered, but every outline of her chest was on display. Be careful about anything that’s tight—on any part of your anatomy.
  6. Be careful about accents. Since the way clothing looks depends on your body shape, be conscious about the parts of your body you don’t want to call attention to. (Ask a trusted friend, if you need an honest opinion.) For example: does a pocket, stripe, or flower fall right on the bust? Is the pocket detail on the curve of your backside? Does the cut accentuate bust, hips, or thighs? Be careful with color blocking, too.

If you want to be taken seriously, you need to dress like your ideas matter more than your body. Dress with class and flair, and keep modesty in mind. That way, no matter who takes your picture or where, no one will title it “Legs-it.” I promise.

Finally, let’s read a part of the description of the Virtuous Woman of Proverbs 31. Notice what she’s remembered for and how she acts, speaks, and dresses.

Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.
She is not afraid of the snow for her household:
for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.
Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.
Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD,
she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands;
and let her own works praise her in the gates (Proverbs 31:10, 17, 21-27, 29-31).

Let’s be women that people remember for our contributions to family, the Lord’s work, compassion, and strength. Our clothing choices are a big part of that. Let’s honor God!



* March 28, 2017 front page, The Daily Mail.