I suppose I could only give this one 3.5 stars, because each day's devotional focus is so short. I think that's an advantage for readers who want some...moreI suppose I could only give this one 3.5 stars, because each day's devotional focus is so short. I think that's an advantage for readers who want something really quick, but I think I like a longer reading for my devotionals. Thus, I was a mite disappointed. I do have to say that the Gospel of John cannot fail to inspire believers with the majesty and power of the deity of Jesus, and his profound love for everyone. John called himself "the disciple whom Jesus loved." That man was so tapped into the love that Jesus has for us that the Romans couldn't even kill him when they tried boiling him in oil. That's a lesson for every believer to learn right there. So I was thrilled to get a copy of this devotional for free on Amazon Kindle. I have been specifically meditating on God's love for me (right believing leads to right living), and I already feel it has changed my life profoundly. John's gospel is required reading for believers who are on the same path for that reason stated above. I loved the prayers at the end of each devotion, and they definitely packed a punch for their short length.
So even though I didn't give this one a higher rating, I still feel it is a very worthwhile daily journal for less than a month of study.(less)
This was a nice, one month freebie devotional that I downloaded from Amazon Kindle. I was pretty happy with this overall. There is a daily writing, ba...moreThis was a nice, one month freebie devotional that I downloaded from Amazon Kindle. I was pretty happy with this overall. There is a daily writing, based on a scripture reference, with a nice prayer at the end. I found each day helpful to me, which I think is the mystery of the Holy Spirit, that each day can have something applicable, no matter what is going on in your life. I thought the prayers were well written, and short and sweet. It's good to have a nice little pre-written prayer if you're not confident in your prayers, even though prayer is just conversation with God, who loves you no matter what. I do have to say the one prayer about being a submissive wife didn't work for me (yeah, I'm not a big believer in that), but otherwise, they were all great.
I can't say anything more other than I recommend this one if you happened to pick it up free.
This is basically a compilation of scriptures distributed into bite-sized readings over the 31 days of December. Some are more directly focused on the...moreThis is basically a compilation of scriptures distributed into bite-sized readings over the 31 days of December. Some are more directly focused on the story of the Christ child, and others delve into his majesty and identity as the savior of all humanity and his fulfillment of the ancient prophecies that foretold of God's promise to reunite and redeem humanity through his Son. The scriptures featured are both Old and New Testament and show the unbreakable link between Mosaic Scriptures, and the work of the Prophets (looking forward to the awaited Messiah) and the New Testament, which focuses on the arrival of Jesus the Messiah. It worked very well as a devotional during the very busy month of December. It serves a dual purpose of reminding believers why Christmas has crucial spiritual importance and also as a reminder of our hope in Jesus. It's fairly no frills, but it serves its purpose and the scripture was food to this reader's spirit.
30 Scripture Readings for Christmas was a gem of a free read on Amazon. I could see me reading it again next year. It's great for readers who want to follow the scriptures through the Christmas story in December, but it could work any month, honestly. After all, the promised and fulfilled hope of Christmas can live everyday in our hearts.(less)
I was having a discussion with a church friend about whether it was valuable to enjoy Christmas on a spiritual level with all the commercialism and pa...moreI was having a discussion with a church friend about whether it was valuable to enjoy Christmas on a spiritual level with all the commercialism and pagan connections of the holiday. I love Christmas, and I have since I was a child. It isn't even about getting gifts for me. It's about the wonder of the season. As a believer of Jesus, I think there is pressure going both ways for you as far as Christmas. One one hand, you are encouraged to like the holiday season but give no relevance to Christmas or its origins. On the other hand, some Christians reject Christmas as a pagan holiday with no significance to the actual celebration of the coming of the Messiah as a human baby. It makes you feel kind of squeezed from both sides at times. Honestly, though, I will continue to be a Christmas freak until I leave this earth. So I appreciated when my friend loaned me this book to read about one of my favorite Christmas songs, "The Twelve Days of Christmas."
It's a short, easy read, since it's actually a children's book. Short but very meaningful for those who profess faith in Jesus, and even to those who wonder what Christians believe. The song dates back to a time in England where there was much religious persecution and people weren't allowed to express beliefs that didn't go along with the official state church. People used songs to teach about their faith in code (coincidentally, this was also done with Negro Spiritual sang in the field during the American slavery period to communicate about the Underground Railroad to escape to freedom). This code is spelled out in the song. I won't go into that because it would spoil the joy of reading the book, since each day is explained as far as its spiritual relevance. However, I will say that this song will now mean so much more to me now when I sing it.
Christmas is a joyful time, and it's also a tough time because of the stress associated with it. The rat race and the focus on buying presents and keeping up with the commercial cast of the holiday can steal some of that joy. However, I believe that there is simple pleasure in celebrating the holiday with songs such as this and in allowing the power of knowing that light broke into the world in the form of God as a baby who would grow up to suffer and die for the sins of everyone who ever lived, and many Christmas songs convey exactly that. It is wonderful to know that "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is also one of those songs.(less)
Read this one at church on Easter while I was waiting for the third service. It succeeds in offering the crucial facts about who Jesus is and why foll...moreRead this one at church on Easter while I was waiting for the third service. It succeeds in offering the crucial facts about who Jesus is and why following and believing in him is a life-changing, wonderful and valid thing for those who choose it. As I have said before about Nicky Gumbel, I love his straightforward, yet thoughtful way of presenting the Gospel and tackling the tough questions that come from people who live in the modern world as to why a man who lived and died and rose again 2000 years ago would affect their lives. People want the truth, and you don't and shouldn't fudge the truth about Jesus. He is the truth.
Short and sweet and very helpful to read. Great for someone who is investigating the faith, a new believer, or a veteran believer to remind herself what she believes.
It's really hard to write a review for this book, because the issues discussed in this 100 plus page book are so huge that I could easily write a 100...moreIt's really hard to write a review for this book, because the issues discussed in this 100 plus page book are so huge that I could easily write a 100 page review just telling my thoughts about how Mr. Gumbel addressed these issues. At least the ones I've figured out completely. Yeah, that sounds as confusing as it feels.
I think that it's easy to take a "baby with the bathwater" approach to Christianity. You assume that because you put your faith in Jesus, then all the tough things in life go away. Not at all the case. Those tough questions will always be there. Because we are thinking people, and we are also emotional. God wired us that way, and he gives us the free choice to think and feel as he created us to do. God is good in that he allows us the room to make up our minds, and gives us the information to approach those decisions open-eyed.
So if people ask hard questions like Why does God allow suffering?, you end up either giving answers that over-simplify the question or give an answer that leaves the questioner with more to think about than they had before they asked. The same goes for other issues in the Christian faith. Big huge ones like sexuality, New Age beliefs, the so-called conflict between science and Christian faith, and the Trinity. Overall, I feel that Mr. Gumbel accomplishes what he set out to do. It helps that Gumbel is a lawyer, and he has a way of making clear, concise points. What makes it even better for me is that grace, truth and love always go together in this book. That is essential to the embodiment of Jesus Christ. And anyone who comes in the name of the Lord should always follow this model.
I do have to say that the segment on the Trinity really put my mind in a knot. Well, honestly, that doesn't surprise me. One God, three separate persons. Christians who have grown up in the faith accept this as the intrinsic part of what we believe. But when you sit down and look at it, it's just mind-boggling. Probably didn't help that I read this part at two in the morning either. God is so beyond what my mind can encompass, but I don't want a life without him. He's just part of who I am and I relish the opportunity to walk through this life and have him reveal more of who is is to me with every step I take while I live on this earth, until I am in his presence one day. I am glad that he thought enough to give me a tangible view of him in Jesus Christ. I'm a thinking person and a feeler, and that makes the walk of faith both an exciting one and a confusing one at times. Sometimes heart and head are declaring war against each other, and you don't know which to believe.
That takes you back to the "baby and the bathwater" conundrum. If I find it hard to accept one aspect of my faith, does that devalue the whole thing, or is that where faith comes in? Can I accept that having faith in Jesus Christ gives me the support to walk through life and the power to get through circumstances I don't always understand? As well as accepting that some things are just what they are and I have to accept that and ask him for the strength to do what he requires of me as a follower of him, even if that means going against the crowd or what everyone else believes to be true. Faith is when you take what information you have and keep walking in the direction you want to go. And I want to go wherever Jesus will lead me.
I knew this would be a crazy review. It's just hard to pin these incredible questions down into salient points. Hats off to Nicky Gumbel that he was brave enough and empowered to try.
It's a good book to read for Christians and want to be Christians who have some hard questions about the faith and how certain things relate to the Christian faith.(less)
I participated in a summer Bible study reading this book, and both the study was great and the reading was enlightening. The study itself was excellen...moreI participated in a summer Bible study reading this book, and both the study was great and the reading was enlightening. The study itself was excellent, because it really helps to have other people to talk to about what's going on and how it impacts me through my identity as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. Chan hasn't set out to write a book about Christian theology. Instead, he seeks to probe at the heart of the reader and ask them to search their heart and decide if their life truly shows the love they profess for God. And what does that mean, anyway? When did Following Jesus become a "ticking the boxes" or "going through the motions" exercise, instead of the manifestation of a genuine love relationship with the Savior?
This isn't always the most comfortable book to read. At times, I felt as though I couldn't live up to a standard that radical love for God seems to set. The truth is, I will always fail at that, in my own strength. Good news is God provides the resources for me to live a live of supernatural love. However, that wasn't the point of this book, and Chan clearly states that. Instead, he encourages the reader to seek out a daily, open relationship with God, and to let that impact every part of their life.
I take from this book, that being 'safe' in my walk with God doesn't represent the full dimensions of what being a believer in Jesus can bring to my life. I also ask myself what does my love for Jesus inspire me to do today and how can I tap into that love relationship with him. And from that flows the behavior that reflects my Savior.
Yeah, this is a sucky review. I know it. I'm glad that God loves me even though I don't get it right, most of the time. (less)
This is the coursebook for the Alpha course that I attended through my church between September and November.
What is Alpha?
Alpha is a course that in...moreThis is the coursebook for the Alpha course that I attended through my church between September and November.
What is Alpha?
Alpha is a course that introduces people to the fundamentals of the faith of Christianity. It's broken down into fourteen topics concerning the faith, and after a short talk, the members divide into small groups and discuss the issues. It is a way for people who have some tough questions and issues about God, faith, and Jesus to have a safe, non-judgmental forum for this discussion.
I decided to attend since it was free, and since it sounded like a worthwhile opportunity. It definitely was. I have never gotten this opportunity to sit down and talk about fundamentals of the faith like this course allowed. The book is a good adjunct. I finished the course and a few weeks ago, I read through the book again, referencing some of the Bible verses again. Reading the coursebook again cemented some of the concepts and allowed me to take the time to digest and reflect on the information offered in the weekly sessions.
What I really like about this book is the easy to follow outline style. I like that it's organized and it gives support for the points made with Bible verses and historical references.
I don't think God ever intended for faith in him through his Son to be complicated. He wanted each person to have the opportunity to know him, and that's the model that the writer of this book, Nicky Gumbel follows. Also the essence of Christ's personality, to speak the truth in love, is evident in the layout of this book.
While this isn't a scholarly approach like one would find with something like CS Lewis' Mere Christianity, it shouldn't be. It's simple and straightforward, well-suited for the course and the group discussion style.
Taking the course was a real blessing, and having the coursebook to go back to, not to mention the notes I took during the talks (because I am a huge nerd), will be very useful and worthwhile in the future.
I am rating this book as I would any coursebook. On that level it's a five star rating. As I alluded to above, it's not written in sentence style, but more in bullet/outlines, but that doesn't detract from its usefulness. I'd recommend taking an Alpha course if you get the opportunity. You don't have to be a believer in Jesus to benefit from it. It's a good place to go even if you have questions about the faith and the idea of God in general.
This is a good devotional for a Christian to read in that it is a collection of what Jesus taught and said during his three year ministry on earth, fo...moreThis is a good devotional for a Christian to read in that it is a collection of what Jesus taught and said during his three year ministry on earth, found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. In the style of the Touchpoints series of books, the writing is divided into sections based on content. The scripture is provided in New Living Translation, and commentary on the scripture is included under the Bible verses.
To know Jesus is to believe what he said and what he expects of his followers. That knowledge is right there in the Word of God, the Bible. As Christians, we have the Holy Spirit to guide us into truth, and the Bible as our reference on God. With those sources of inspiration we can live our lives through the power God gives us. This devotional in my hands helped me to focus on his sayings and teachings and put them into the perspective of addressing life's specific conditions and what my calling is as a believer in Jesus. This book doesn't take the place of reading the Bible, by any means. Instead, it's a good adjunct for those who are desirous to hide the words of the Lord in their heart, and to apply what he said and what it means to your life in particular.
Although this is pretty basic, it serves its purpose. The four star rating is because it's a good condensation of what is spread throughout the Gospel that Jesus said and taught, and I like the ability to reference the Lord's sayings based on subject matter. I picked my copy up at the used bookstore and it more than paid for itself. (less)
In order to have written the most successful review for this book, I should have started with Day 1 and wrote something about each entry every day. Sa...moreIn order to have written the most successful review for this book, I should have started with Day 1 and wrote something about each entry every day. Sadly, I didn't do that. So I'll just do my best to write a summary of my thoughts of this devotional over the year-long experience of reading it. I hope that any reader of this review finds that helpful.
Oswald Chambers is a man who definitely had an ongoing encounter with God. His thoughts tap into every aspect of the experience of following Christ and having communion with the Spirit of God. His words are at times an incredibly profound comfort to a broken heart. At other times, they are a prod to one's flagging determination to fight the good fight and continue that daily walk with God in a meaningful way. Other times, they convict the reader in the best way. The way that the Holy Spirit convicts a believer of complacency or willingness to settle for a life that merely pretends belief in God as opposed to a life-changing, ever-evolving relationship with God that affects every aspect of that person's life in the more meaningful ways. I do believe that God used Mr. Chambers powerfully in writing this devotional. I cannot count how many times I read an entry and I felt that God was talking directly to me. A person once said that we don't read the Bible, but the Bible reads us. I believe that Mr. Chambers was prompted by the Holy Spirit to write something that does exactly that. I found that questions I was struggling with that week were addressed so many times in the entries I read, and I saw the lightbulb go on inside my mind.
I would recommend this devotional to every believer in Jesus, and even to people who seek to know God in a deep way. I believe that the reader will feel touched deep inside and it will make them desire for more of God in their life. The good news is that God wants to walk with each and every one of us in that way and relate to us in a truly real way. God always rewards those who seek him. And "My Utmost for His Highest" is a good tool in that journey of discovering who God is and how intimately we can relate to him everyday. Definitely worth getting a copy of this and spending a year with Oswald Chambers.(less)
How do I condense 40 days of learning into one reasonable length review? Don't think I can do that. All I can do is say what this book has done for me....moreHow do I condense 40 days of learning into one reasonable length review? Don't think I can do that. All I can do is say what this book has done for me. So that's what I'll do.
I have been a Christian for a long time. However, I don't think I really accessed most of that power that comes from being a follower of Christ. Prayer is that key, that instrument to access the power that Christ gave all his believers in his ministry, persecution, crucifixion, death, and resurrection from the grave. Jesus prayed, all the time. And he is the living God. But he needed to access the power of God while he was in a fully human body. He did this through prayer. Jesus prayed through some of the most painful times in his life. When he and his disciples had material needs to be met. When he was tempted by the devil for 40 days, when he knew he was going to be tried and crucified. His last night before he was crucified, he prayed so hard that he sweated blood. If my Lord prayed, and I follow him as my model, then how could I not pray every day of my life, not just in the worst moments, but in the best, and in everything between? That would be huge folly on my part not to follow his model. The disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray and he told them to say what we know as The Lord's Prayer:
‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.'
I learned to say this prayer when I was a very young girl, but I didn't realize the absolute power in it until I read this book. God still blessed me in my life despite that. But there is so much more God can do with his children if we only ask him. Let me tell you, practically every need you would have as a human being can be met through this prayer. God will supply all your needs. He's just waiting for you to ask him to do it. And also you should pray this when you pray for others. They need the same things and this prayer accesses the unlimited resources of heaven to give them what they need. Sometimes we see so much hopelessness and it makes feel us helpless. Well, believers in Christ are not helpless in any way. Even if we can't reach out and touch and physically help someone, we can pray for them, and there is power in that prayer. Merely using The Lord's Prayer. Now, I have learned to pray it out loud and let every line resonate through my spirit. You see, there is power in God's word. When we pray God's word, he hears us. He hears the prayers of the believers (and even those who don't know him but are seeking to know him and need his help) anyway, but God will always honor his word. If it says that he will give us our daily bread, then he will do it (and I truly have found that out in this season of my life). This book helped me to understand this, that I should use my prayers with power. Not demanding anything from God, but agreeing with him in what he says in his word.
I will honestly admit that prayer is something I've done half-heartedly most of my life. It's very foolish of me. As a believer in Jesus, why wouldn't I want to spend time with him? And that's what prayer is. Prayer is fellowship with the Living God. He loves us and he wants to spend time with us. Does he need us? No, but he takes great joy in us, his children. I think it's like if you are a parent and your children don't ever want to spend time with you. It must feel bad to know they don't care to spend time with you. Well, I know that God loves me so much, and because of his love, I love him so much, quite desperately. So now, even when I don't feel like praying, I still pray, because the power of agape love gives us the strength to break through the barriers that come between us and those who we share a relationship with. God doesn't care for fancy gestures, just a sincere heart. The Holy Spirit will make the words when we need them. And let me tell you, whenever I pray and spend time with God, the peace that comes into my heart is like nothing else, no matter how bad things seemed before I started praying. It's like being wrapped in his arms. My insides become suffused with a powerful light. There is no substitute for fellowship with the Living God. This book has encouraged me to dive into experiencing the presence of the Living God. And I know that I don't need to be ashamed of my sins and shortcomings, afraid to approach my father in heaven, and Jesus my lord. The Lord paid for my cleansing from sin and he has promised that I can always approach him in confidence. Now I cast all that at the Lord's feet, and I know he can do better with it than I can. Every believer has this right and privilege.
Another incredible revelation that this pilgrim has discovered is the incredible supernatural power that we can harness through prayer. Jesus said that anything he did, we could do.
I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. John 14:12-14
That means heal the sick, provide for material resources, protection from spiritual and physical enemies, and yes, even raising the dead. How do we access this? By praying in confidence (not in ourselves but him) as the Lord did. That doesn't mean fancy prayers. Jesus didn't pray 'fancy'. He prayed with faith and humility. That's all that we have to do as believers in him. This is not just me saying this. This is in the Word, which is the inerrant essence of God.
The very essence of your words is truth; all your just regulations will stand forever. Psalm 119:60
Oh goodness. Very hard to condense all of this. I'm getting excited to write this, to share this incredible message through this review. Let me talk about the writing a little. Mr. Devries has a good way of illustrating his points. He tells stories of his life and what he's seen and had others tell him. They are very good at bringing the importance home of the power of prayer. Some of the stories had my jaw dropping. The supernatural happening right here in the middle of this mundane world. And it has encouraged me to follow this model of prayer and marvel and praise God for doing what he promised to do. I think that Mr. Devries sets challenges out there for the readers. Some of his guidelines may not work exactly as he suggested, but don't let that turn you off his message. The essence of what he is saying definitely has merit, and this is a very good starting point for a Christian who doesn't feel like they are very good at prayer.
I am very grateful that my church decided to read this book as a group, and even provided free copies to everyone. The blessings reaped are without measure. I would recommend this book to Christians--old and new--who want to understand just how valuable prayer is.
Holly Harrison meets kind, good-looking, if very overweight Jess Colton when they are stranded in the elevator in their apartment building. He helps h...moreHolly Harrison meets kind, good-looking, if very overweight Jess Colton when they are stranded in the elevator in their apartment building. He helps her to get through her attack of claustrophobia and fear by praying for her, and shows what a nice guy he is. Once they are rescued from the elevator, Jess invites her to go to church with him. Holly became a Christian years ago, but she listened to her sister's insistence that God wouldn't forgive her for the sins she had committed while in college, so she stopped going to church, praying and reading her Bible. Jess's encouragement and spiritual counseling helps Holly to get back in a close relationship with the Lord, and she starts to fall in love with the gentle, beautiful man. His weight doesn't matter to her. She sees the loving person inside, and is drawn to him for his love for God and the warm friendship he shows her. Even though she knows that he probably wouldn't want damaged goods like herself.
Jess falls in love at first sight with Holly, but more importantly, he reaches out to the lonely, unhappy young woman with the love of Christ. While others seem repelled and critical of his weight, she shows him loving friendship and support. He knows that no woman would want him with his large body and his addiction to food. All he can do is take comfort in their friendship, even if he wants more in his heart. But what can he offer to her when it turns out that with his weight issues, his health is a ticking clock getting closer to eternity?
Give Us This Day was a very touching novel about the relationship between two lonely people who felt deeply unworthy inside, despite their relationship with Christ. I appreciated that God brought them together so they could help each other through their mutual issues with feeling loved and accepted. Additionally, it was refreshing to read a book where the couple falling in love aren't drop dead gorgeous or without flaws, and they love each other for what they see inside, as well for their mutual love for Christ.
The story touched me deeply, both from a spiritual and emotional perspective. Jess was a very good man, and it was painful to see how people treated him because of his weight, as if he was disgusting and inferior and undeserving of respect. Foster ably conveys the message about God's love for all people, and that he accepts us as we are. Jess's struggles with an alcohol addiction that he substituted with food because of feeling a lack of acceptance from his hypercritical father resonated with me. His process of turning that addiction over to God and seeking his help to recover from it, was a powerful message to me of God's ability to heal all our wounds and to be our sufficiency in a fallen world. In the case of Holly, I was reminded that God's love is unconditional, that there is no sin he won't forgive and that we don't need to feel unworthy of his love and fellowship because of mistakes we make, past or future.
At times, I feel as though Christian fiction can be all about a message with no story to go with it. With Give Us This Day, I felt that the message was seamlessly intertwined with an involving story. I rooted for Jess and Holly to find their happy ending together, even as I appreciated the spiritual truths and insights given in this novella. I loved how in the midst of their struggles, these characters were able to find comfort in each other, and from the people in their lives (both Christian and non-Christian), but also to help those who didn't know and appreciate God's unconditional love as a gift available to all.
There are very few, if any romance books that feature an overweight hero or even a hero who struggles with weight issues, so this book serves as a very good trailblazer for a needed genre today. I found that I loved Jess for his whole being as I read this novella. While I felt pain for his emotional issues that led to his obesity and worried about his health, his weight didn't diminish his attractiveness to me as a person. It wasn't hard to see why Holly fell in love with him. I definitely see this as being realistic, because many people don't just look for the perfect physical specimen, either because they have gone down that path and been disappointed or because they know all along their soulmate won't come in that package. They look to the heart for a person who they feel safe and loved with. Give Us This Day is the book for those readers. And for readers who want a great romance with an effective and non-preachy Christian message. I recommend reading it.
I am walking with Christ. That is what my life is about. Each day, I want my life to reflect that I follow and believe in Christ. Part of that is maki...moreI am walking with Christ. That is what my life is about. Each day, I want my life to reflect that I follow and believe in Christ. Part of that is making decisions in my life that honor and reflect God. It is difficult to live with uncertainty. That has nothing to do with being a Christian. Non-believers feel the same way. The difference for a Christian is that we trust in God to take care of us. Believe that His invisible hand both guides and supports us. That means that every day is a leap of faith. We walk supported by His invisible hands.
What I really, really love about being a Christian is knowing that God loves me for me. He made me into the unique person that I am for a reason. Why should he want to change that just because I gave my life to Him? He doesn’t want me to be a windup doll. He gave me a brain and the freedom of choice. But He also gave me guidelines for my life so that I could ‘live more abundantly’. If I live according to biblical principles overall, I can choose the direction my life takes. Sometimes, that’s where it gets hard. You can have two different paths that are God honoring, but one might work better for you than the other. How can you know what to do?
This booklet was very helpful. It’s quick, easy to read, and insightful. It doesn’t give you a laundry list of what you should do to make decisions. Instead, it gives guidelines. I like the acronym they come up with for decision-making principles: GUIDE G-Go to the Lord U-Understand His Principles I-Investigate Your Options D-Discuss it With Others E-Express Your Freedom
I think GUIDE is extremely helpful. That doesn’t mean that making decisions will always be easy. They won’t. Especially for a stone cold melancholy phlegmatic like myself. What that means is I am a worrier who has trouble making decisions because she wants to make the right decisions and dwells overly on every choice she does make. Instead of being at sea, I can at least look to these principles as a way to go through that painful decision-making process. At the end of it, I can feel some peace that I made a good decision.
I also liked the passage, “Quiet Nudges,” written by Philip Yancey. I can identify with what he’s talking about when he writes of seeing God’s guidance as he looked back on a tough part of his life. On looking back at my life, I have felt that instead of stumbling around in the dark, I was being lead down a twisted path, with God’s guiding hand on me, even when I felt most alone, most uncertain. It puts the whole leap of faith concept in perspective. We might feel like we’re walking alone, walking on thin air, but God knows and sees things deeper and farther than we ever will. And even if we fall, God can use that for our overall good and let something worthwhile come out of that process. Knowing that is a real blessing.
I received this booklet free from Our Daily Bread’s Discovery Series Bible Study, but it definitely proves its worth. If you can get a copy of this, I recommend it. If not, I think the GUIDE principles can still be helpful to you. And even without those, one thing I’d say to always remember as a Christian, good times or bad: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding. And in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6. You might not know where you’re going, but you can trust that the Lord will get you there in the end. (less)
This was a beautiful book. I have long been wishing to read a Christian romance that delivered such a rich story as this. I loved how the love story w...moreThis was a beautiful book. I have long been wishing to read a Christian romance that delivered such a rich story as this. I loved how the love story was full, and it was as much about the love between Pelonia and Caros, as it was also Pelonia’s love for Christ, and how she was able to come into Caros’ life and to help him to heal and to come to know Christ. Ms. Capshaw did such a great job of showing this without it being preachy. The message of God’s love and how it gave Pelonia strength and how it could heal Caros’ deep emotional wounds was rich. The narrative never came off as pedantic or filled with spiritual public service announcements. It truly was about people of faith living their lives. There weren’t any easy answers. Pelonia had a struggle sometimes to act true to her faith, putting her faith in God to help her and to be her strength, which is the experience of all Christians. She didn’t realize that her actions showed the truth of her message. Caros saw how her faith was her foundation, how it gave her peace, and he came to want to know her God, who had made her such a beautiful, peace-filled person.
Caros had the traits that I love in a good hero: he was strong, but gentle, loving, possessive. He was very masculine, and he was a good man, even if he had lived a rough life, and done things he couldn’t forgive himself for. I could easily see why Pelonia fell in love with him. I could also see how the Lord had brought those two together.
I also liked the developing secondary romance between Quintus, a slave who is being trained as a gladiator by Caros, and Adiona, Caros’ seemingly hardened widow friend. In a way, she is like a male version of Caros. She seems hard and cruel, but down deep, she hides wounds that keep her from living a full life. I have a feeling that Quintus will bring love into her life. The setting of this book took me back to Rome in the period of the early Christian church. It was very disheartening to see how Christians were treated, murdered for their faith and called deviants. It called me to stand strong in my own faith, considering that people were martyred by the thousands back then (and still are in parts of the world). The least of my worries is facing humiliation or being scorned by people because I believe in Jesus.
I really want to thank Ms. Capshaw for writing this book. She ministered to me so fruitfully. I needed the lessons in this book, as they strengthened my faith, but also took my mind off my own troubles. It was a good lesson that you are never beyond God’s grace, and God has a plan that he will see through. It may not make sense, but His will can’t help but be done; and you are a part of His plan in whatever way that is unique to you, because you are precious to God. Ms. Capshaw did a better job of showing this message than I can in this review, and I’m glad of that. I am so happy I had the chance to read The Gladiator, and I look forward to reading more of her books. If someone asks for a recommendation for a good Christian romance to read, or a romance that is just plain fulfilling for any romance or historical fiction reader, I’d be happy to recommend this one. (less)
Max Lucado has such a way with words. Once again, I have read a book by him that fed my spirit and encouraged me in my walk with Christ, just when I n...moreMax Lucado has such a way with words. Once again, I have read a book by him that fed my spirit and encouraged me in my walk with Christ, just when I needed it.
He is graced with the ability to illustrate timely, yet timeless spiritual truths. His examples are highly relevant without being the slightest bit pedantic or dogmatic. One of the most penetrating such stories was about a cave full of people who were in the dark and cold, and they were miserable, but didn't know any other way. A stranger comes and makes a fire and invites the people to come to the fire. Only one woman does, and she does it despite her fears. She cares for her brethren, feels their pain of being in the dark, and yet, she doesn't want to go back there. The stranger has a solution. He gives her a torch and she can take the light to them. This hit home with me because it speaks of what Christ-followers can do in the world. Be light in a dark world.
Lucado speaks on grace, which is the central truth of Jesus Christ's message. That God's resources are unlimited, no matter what you are going through. His unconditional love for us, and how this can change our lives. How Christians struggle with things on an everyday basis when we should allow Jesus to carry our burdens and press into him, for he can support the weight of our weary hearts and minds, and the issues we struggle with in life. And how important the relationship with Jesus is for believers. He also speaks on how we relate to others and allow barriers to come up within the church and with people who don't share our beliefs,when they are artificial more than anything else.
He knows his Bible, he knows Christ, and he is fully convinced of the reality of God in Jesus Christ and his love for us, and that comes through, loud and clear. But his goal is not to press heavy doctrinal lessons on his readers. Instead, he goes right to the heart of what following Christ means in the every day, nitty gritty. I appreciate that very much.
This was the right book to read during a tough week, and Lucado helped me feel the love of my Savior just by reading his stories. He reminded me that I am not alone, but I am deeply loved by God, and he can get me through just about anything I deal with in this life.
Despite his simplicity and casual charm, I say he achieved something monumental here.
I bought this book a few years ago, because it definitely had a message I needed to hear. I was in a very stressful job and I was dealing with a cowor...moreI bought this book a few years ago, because it definitely had a message I needed to hear. I was in a very stressful job and I was dealing with a coworker who seemed out to get me, to undermine every support system I had in that job, and to turn everyone against me. Since then, I’ve taken this book to work with me and kept it handy. I’ve even started reading it a few times. Today, I read the whole book. It is a remarkable thing how the Holy Spirit can prompt you, direct you exactly where you need to go. I needed to read this book right now.
This book is structured around the representation of Jesus’ time on the Cross, containing seven lessons that are taken from Jesus’ actions and words on the Cross. The seven principles are as follows (taken directly from the book): 1. Forgive anyone--no, everyone--who seems set on ruining your life. 2. Though beset yourself, focus on encouraging others who are struggling and uncertain. 3. Be sure you are sensitive and loving, certain to take care of those who are near you. 4. When seemingly impossible questions come, aim them at God, not at man. 5. Whatever your adequacy, never be above making known your need for help. 6. Embrace the certainty that God’s “finishes” always have a purpose and an end. 7. Surrender everything to God and let go.
The beauty of this book is, Mr. Hayford doesn’t introduce anything new here. He just prompts the reader to consider what has been laid out before all Christians. We read about Christ’s crucifixicion, and we thank Him for it, remembering that it was done for our salvation. However, here we are urged to look at what He did, and what it means for our life beyond our salvation from sin. It was as if a lightbulb went on for me. I always knew that Jesus was well aware of everything He did. He chose to go to the Cross. He did it for those who would believe in Him. I also knew that He is my model for how I should live my life. Jesus urged all His followers to take up their Crosses and to follow in His footsteps. That is one of the toughest jobs a Christian will have. Because we embrace His suffering when we take up our Crosses. We embrace the scorn that He himself felt. We embrace the abuse that the Lord suffered. We won’t actually be crucified, at least most of us Christians in a modern world. But emotionally and socially we will face scorn and derision. It’s just part of living in this world as His followers.
What this book teaches me is that there is a way to look at these events and allow them to speak to my spirit and to show me how to glorify Christ, and even more profoundly, how to use the lessons that Jesus gave me to triumph over those daily sufferings.
Forgiving I will say here and now, forgiving someone, truly forgiving someone, is one of the hardest things a person can do. Yes, even Christians. We build walls around our hearts, and when someone manages to get past those defenses, and to hurt us, all we can think about is how wrong that person is. Well, it’s obvious that they wronged us. But, as Jesus said, “They know not why they do it.” What Mr. Hayford pointed out was that a person can sin intentionally against another, but deep down, they may not realize how much they hurt us, or the consequences of it. Even if I have trouble with this, I know one thing, Jesus forgave me what I have done, what I continue to do, what I will do, and he didn’t make qualifications. He forgave me because that is what love is. I have to keep praying for God to give me His forgiving heart, because forgiving is a supernatural work. But, if anyone can give me the ability to do so, it’s Him. And in the end, I am better off, because my heart is not weighted down by bitterness and hatred for another. I am lighter and freer to live my life, if I can let go of my unforgiveness for others who have wronged me.
Helping Others I have found this to be very true. When I spend my time focusing on how sucky things are for me, it just becomes this vicious cycle that brings my spirits ever lower. But, if I get out of my own head, and turn my focus away from what’s wrong with my life, and reach other to others in need, that balm of healing does its work. I truly believe our job is to help others and to fellowship with others. It’s not an easy thing for me at times. I am a loner, and I am an introvert. However, I know that God gave me a spirit to help others, even if it makes my life uncomfortable, and many of my troubles come from putting myself out there for others, when I’d be better off staying in my own quiet little corner of the world. In the end, despite the agonies that result, the payoff is so rich. To know that you helped someone, to know that you ministered as the Lord ministers to you…that’s a good feeling. I didn’t see the movie, but it’s definitely “Paying it Forward,” and the returns are great, in the end.
Using Your Suffering to Aid Others Who Suffer I learned years ago in biblical lessons about why God became Jesus and came to earth. He did it so he would know intimately what His children go through in this world, in this life. Jesus was fully human, but also God. He suffered as no person on earth has, on the Cross, and he refused to take the easy route. He knew beforehand how He would suffer, which is why he prayed in the Garden of Gethesemene for God to take away his Cup. In the end, He didn’t shirk his duty. He took everything on Himself willingly, and He did it for this reason. He did it out of love for us. So, when you feel as though God couldn’t possibly know what you are going through, remember that He does. And turn that around. When you see someone going through something awful, and you’ve suffered in your life, reach out to them, and minister to them in their time of need. You might not exactly have gone through what they have, but you know what it’s like to feel pain and agony, so use that experience, and how you got through it to help someone else. Yes, I have heard this before, but it’s good to be reminded.
God Wants You to Come to Him With the Tough Questions Just like Jesus cried on the Cross to God, “Why have you forsaken me?”, Christians (and I believe those who are truly seeking the Lord but haven’t found Him) have the privilege to do the same with the Lord. Don’t run away from God when you feel ugly about things, when you are in the deepest, darkest agony. Cry out to Him, and ask Him why you are suffering. You might not get an easy answer, but you will gain the peace of Christ, which surpasses all understanding by approaching Him and communing with Him. The Lord will never turn away one of His children who earnestly seeks Him and calls onto Him for His help. The word of God backs this up in many, many scriptures. Whenever I am in my darkest moods, I remind myself of this, and it is so true. And remember, that Jesus did this very thing on the Cross. Remember that no matter where you are, how deep and dark the depths of your suffering are, God is with you. He said He would never leave or forsake His Children, and He meant it. He said that those who call on the Lord would be saved, and I believe it. Sometimes we are so wrapped up in the excruciating intensity of our pain that we just forget that He is there because we are hurting so bad, but He is right there with us, wiping away our tears.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Others For Help This is very hard for me. I don’t like to be perceived as weak. I like to keep my vulnerabilities hidden. Because I have learned that people will often attack you when they see you are weak. But, the Lord made it clear that we need each other. That’s why the Lord calls His believers the Body of Christ. Together we are able to function as a better whole. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t carry our own weight. Remember that Jesus carried His Cross, although others helped Him on the road to Golgotha. And He also asked for a drink before He said His last words. Mr. Hayford states that Jesus did this as a lesson. He wanted to show that even the Lord was not too strong to ask for help when He needed it. So should his children. If you are truly suffering, don’t go off like a wounded animal about to die, when you might need to be around friends and loved ones who can minister to you. Let them know you need their help. It might even be something small. If you need some time alone, ask someone to keep an eye on things for you while you take the time to regroup. Sometimes our way of helping others is allowing them to feel as though they can help you, that they are important to you. My sister is a wise woman. I will lay my troubles out for her, and she knows just what to say. Sometimes I might feel silly expressing that something bothered me when it probably wouldn’t bother a ‘stronger’ person. Well, us Christians have to remember that we are strongest when we admit our weakness, because His grace is sufficient for us. And the Grace of God is the truest strength. So, even when I feel silly, I will tell her my troubles, even if I could just share them with God and not lose face. But I must remember that, just by asking for her advice, I am following the Lord’s example, getting the help I need, and often hearing His words speak through her. God didn’t put us on earth by ourselves. We have each other to help us. Don’t be too proud to ask for help when you need it.
No Matter Who Starts Something, God Will Finish It In the Bible, there is a scripture that says that “He who begins a good work in your will be faithful to complete it.” I remind myself of that when I feel my most inadequate. Fear of failure is a heavy weight on my soul at times. When I feel I am not doing what God wants me to do, I go to Him, and allow Him to remind me that He will give me all I need to do His work. This is just one part of what the Lord intended us to know when he said, “It is Finished,” on the Cross. There is also the message that all the sufferings that we are afflicted with in this life, they will end. It is just a season in time. The Lord will take care of His children and get them through the most terrible circumstances, and we will come out of it, purer and refined, stronger. The other lesson is probably more clear. That when Jesus suffered on the Cross, he crucified sin. He took away its power and the fear of death for believers. Because Jesus suffered that separation from God due to human sin, we don’t have to. He is the bridge to God, and because of Him, sin has lost its eternal power and grip on us. So remember, when you feel that your sin has alienated God from you, that Jesus’ acts on your behalf has made it impossible for sin to keep you away from God. Its power truly is finished. Keep those messages close to your heart. Those bad days, they will end. And while they are lasting, you are never alone. God is there with you always.
Surrender All Things Into God's Arms I have a bad habit of fixating on things. It can make for sleepless nights and lots of stomachaches. This book reminded me that God can deal with the stuff I'm not equipped to handle, no matter how much I analyze and reanalyze things. Some things are beyond my control, but nothing is beyond His. Just like Jesus commended his spirit into God's hands, I can surrender my being to God and allow him to take care of me. And he will exactly that.
This was a short book. But it has a great lesson, if not a reminder, for Christians. On your bad day, go back to the Cross and look at what Jesus wants us to remember about His time on the Cross. It will get you through that bad day, and you’ll come out of it even stronger. (less)
What do you do when you feel like a stranger in your own land? That’s the question that Zora and Nicky face. They both grew up in the church, children...moreWhat do you do when you feel like a stranger in your own land? That’s the question that Zora and Nicky face. They both grew up in the church, children of ministers. Their whole lives were about living and walking in the footsteps of Jesus. But when did it become a matter of trying to please their fathers more than Jesus? When did this require the sacrifice of their entire identities?
Both Zora and Nicky are adrift. Nicky is the prodigal son, returned to the fold to try to rebuild his troubled relationship with a father who never showed him the loving embrace that a dad should show his son, like Jesus loves His church. Nicky wants to be a writer, but the words won’t come. He feels so alone and trapped. His girlfriend is the perfect girl for the life that his parents want for him. But not for Nicky. And Nicky is dealing with three years of celibacy and sobriety, after wild teenage years of leading church maidens astray when he was asking for help from a family who left his cries unheard. When he goes to a bible study held by his boss, he encounters the beautiful, dark-skinned Zora, and feels a mix of emotions that do not strike him as healthy with everything else on his plate. Is it just lust or he could he be in love?
Zora is the daughter of a minister who preaches prosperity to those who can proclaim God’s word with faith. He has no tolerance for poor Christians or those who just want to get by. Although he gives her everything material she could wish for, designer furniture, clothes, and a Lexus, he controls every aspect of her life, and seems blind to the true unrest in his church. Zora walks out of church one day, praying that God would show her how to be poor in spirit. She goes to a bible study full of white people and feels that intense emotional connection with God that she feels like has been absent, but she’s embarrassed by the way she breaks down in front of the other bible study members. And then there is the gorgeous blue-eyed, blond rogue that she’s been warned about although they truly love Nicky. How can she be drawn to a troubled and rascally white man when she doesn’t even love the perfect black man hand-picked by her father, and groomed to be the future minister of his church? What does she do when her father takes everything away because he feels she’s in rebellion just by trying to be herself? And to her surprise, the white folks from her bible study, and the roguish Nicky, come to her aid when her family and most of her church turns a blind eye.
Zora and Nicky is a very moving romantic story, but it also strikes at the heart of a reader who grew up in the Christian faith, but is trying to find out where she or he fits into the flock of God’s church. I loved how Ms. Burney wasn’t afraid to get real. She showed how church is full of people who do one thing and say another, but it’s also clear that there are many who love God so much, but they just don’t know how they are supposed to go about doing that. I just loved both Nicky and Zora’s characters. Not because they were perfect, but because they were real and hurting and damaged. They both had a genuine love for Jesus, and they wanted to be wrapped in His arms in all their wounded, flawed selves. Not only that, they wanted to have fathers who knew how to love them, and accept them for who they were. Their troubled relationships with their fathers clearly affected their relationships with God, because they didn’t know that unconditional love that Jesus has for us, unused to feeling that in the model for His love that one’s father and minister should show.
The racial issues in this story are pertinent and handled well. Ms. Burney addressed the ugly things that normal people think and do on both sides of the racial issue. Although the way Nicky’s grandfather and father act about Zora was absolutely chilling, Ms. Burney also shows that black folks can be just as racist in their thinking as white folks. And neither is okay. Because humans are just human. And no person should be seen as the stand-in or representative for their race. It isn’t fair, because you can only be you. And Christians of all people should know better than to judge someone for the outside, the mere difference in melanin that means nothing to God. Although it was clear how powerful the bond was between Zora and Nicky, they had to work out their own issues about race so that they could see each other with the love that God put in their souls for each other.
Even with the sometimes mean things they said to each other, I loved how they seemed to get who each other was deep down, and supported that, even when people who should have loved, supported and understood each other didn’t. I loved that their relationship was passionate even with no sex taking place (just very passionate kisses), how they talked to each other, fought for each other, and dreamed together. I loved that they both shared a powerful love for Christ that was another thing that bound them together. They had the makings of a relationship I could truly see flourishing fifty years in the future.
Zora and Nicky was a book that made me cry. It made me angry in some scenes. It affected me deeply, and probed into the hurting places that I have regarding my own walk in the Christian faith; dealing with that feeling that you don’t fit into the body of Christ the way you should. That even though Jesus loves you the way you are and wants the best for you, others don’t think you measure up. Also seeing the superficial Christianity that seems okay for most, and how you want something deep and true and it feels like you can’t find it. I could identify so well with those aspects of this book. And the romantic in me loved the beautiful story of love found between Zora and Nicky. I felt that God did bring them together, and He was working in both of them for their good and for their emotional wholeness and healing.
I didn’t much care for either Nicky or Zora’s father. Actually, I think they failed in very profound ways. I did feel that at the end of the day, their mothers did show the love that both Zora and Nicky needed, even though it wasn’t enough to balance out the pain that each father caused them. I also liked Zora’s relationship with her friend MacKenzie. They stood by each other through tough times, encouraging each other to reach for their dreams.
I really appreciated the characters of Linda, Rick, and Billie, who are members of the bible study. Also Ms. Pamela, one of the members of Zora’s congregation. Who all represent Christians who are filled with the love of Jesus, and have made it their mission to show it, even though some Christians wouldn’t find them fitting or good enough to represent the faith. However, they represent Jesus in the purest way. Jesus was the despised, rejected man who owned nothing but the robe on his back, was born in a manger, and died on a cross. And He is the one who is able to save and love everyone. So that’s alright with me if a shabby person shows me Jesus in my everyday life. And they were there to show that love when Nicky and Zora needed it. Just writing this review is making me cry. I just loved this book. It was so meaningful to me. I can’t recommend it highly enough. (less)