Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Searching the Scriptures by Charles R. Swindoll

In Searching the Scriptures, Chuck Swindoll uses the imagery of preparing a meal to learn methods of preparing a spiritual feast to nourish our souls. A respected Bible teacher, Swindoll uses the tried and true methods he has learned at school and further honed in years of practicing to help everyone understand God’s Word, apply it, and communicate it clearly to others. With this guide and shared wisdom, you will be better prepared to nourish yourself and others with the meat, rather than spiritual milk only, as you dig into your Bible and study it diligently. Searching the Scriptures: Find the Nourishment Your Soul Needs is a fantastic resource for anyone who wants to take the time and effort to study for themselves rather than simply learning what others have to say. Scripture can be wildly misinterpreted by some, so it is always good to study for yourself. I was reminded of 2 Timothy 2:15, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn't need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth." How better to do that than by studying for yourself? Using similar methods to preparing a meal, Swindoll divides his book into 3 parts:
  • Stage 1 - Finding the Food
  • Stage 2 - Preparing the Meal
  • Stage 3 - Serving the Feast
Swindoll gives you a list of tools needed to help you begin the diligent study of God's Word, including some personal favorites he uses. Since the vast array that is available can be overwhelming, I loved getting his recommendations. Just as a novice cook can be bewildered at where to begin and what to have stocked, so can a new student of the Bible.

Throughout the book, he gives personal examples and instructions, along with homework at the end of each chapter to help you practice. On a personal note, I am not a good cook, but I am told that it is because I don't put time and effort into it. I can see the same principle working here. Instead of a diet of snack memes or or random Facebook posts of Scripture, his goal is to help the reader learn to have the proper tools and ingredients, to study the effect of what does work or not work together (buttermilk, lard, and flour may not be good to eat alone, but mix them together and you can bake amazing biscuits) to create something filling and nourishing for your soul.

Finally, once you have learned how to study Scripture for yourself, you are then better equipped to share it with others...and to teach others how to do this for themselves. Does this look easy? No, I am actually a little intimidated by some of it (even more so than I am a cookbook!), but the reward of knowing I can study Scripture and gain greater understanding is well worth the effort. There are some amazing preachers and teachers to hear, but nothing beats doing it yourself. After all, we are instructed, "
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." - 1 Peter 3:15. It is always easier to explain something you have learned for yourself.

Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. I was only required to give an honest review.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Spiritual Darkness

Today I listened to a message from Robert Morris of Gateway Church in Texas as he discussed the political climate of the world today. He said something that both described what is going on, yet gave a reminder of the hope that followers of Jesus Christ have in spite of the turmoil, rage, and spiritual darkness surrounding us. He was talking about a dream he once had and that he had referenced the 9th Plague in a discussion he had during the the dream.

The background story, for any who may be unfamiliar, is when Moses was asking to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, where  they had been held as slaves for hundreds of years. At each refusal from Pharaoh, the Lord sent another plague. Yet, Pharaoh stubbornly hardened his heart each time. Read (or listen to) The 10 Plagues of Egypt in Exodus 7- 11.

But the 9th Plague---The Plague of Darkness---is the focus this time.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, and there will be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness that can be felt.”  So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was thick darkness throughout the land of Egypt for three days.  One person could not see another, and for three days they did not move from where they were. Yet all the Israelites had light where they lived. ~ Exodus 10:21-23

Can you imagine a darkness so thick it can be felt? So dark that you cannot see anyone around you, and you are paralyzed with fear? In referencing that passage, Pastor Robert said, "God is saying it is going to get darker and darker in our world, but we will have Light in our dwelling." For those who follow Christ, we will not be consumed by the darkness that is creeping across our world at a faster and faster pace. Ephesians 5:12 tells us, "But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that is illuminated becomes a light itself."

Jesus said in John 3:19-21 , “This, then, is the judgment: The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who practices wicked things hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed. But anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God.”

Of course, people do not measure good and evil by the same standard, and it is evident that the struggle between darkness and light is growing stronger. The gradual slide into acceptance has become a raging battle. If you disagree, you are called vile names or everything about you is based on your belief system. No longer content to mock and ridicule, people now want to destroy anyone that has a different point of view. The Bible foretold this too. Even among fellow believers, we fight over interpretation. I confess, I can get as furious at a believer who does not view some Scriptures as i do...but I still love them. I just pray that their eyes be opened...or mine! (I have been mistaken, repented... and then continue to mature spiritually.)

It is important for us to remember that darkness and evil (even when disguised as something good and loving) will continue. We are, no doubt, in an age of spiritual darkness as we draw closer to the time Christ promised to return for His Bride. Now, more than ever, we need to pray for ourselves, our family and friends, our nation, and our world. But, also remember always that
Jesus said, "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life." We Have HOPE!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Sleeping Under The Stars ~ August 14, 2010

The Perseid Meteor Showers are making their annual appearance. It has been years since I lived in an area where I could actually see anything, but I always try. Watching a starry night fascinates me almost as much as a thunderstorm. They both remind me of the magnificence and omnipotence of God.

Thursday night was supposed to be the best viewing night, but there was simply too much cloud cover. However, I did enjoy just sitting outside and communing with God. Last night, I made the decision that I would sit outside again. I had not had a very good day, and just really needed to pour out my heart to the One who loves me and understands.

After about 20 minutes, Caitlyn wandered out to see if I had seen a meteorite yet. I told her no, but that I was going to get a blanket and just lay outside for a while. Caitlyn decided to join me, and as we lay on the blanket talking, it began to get a bit chilly. I volunteered to go in for another blanket. When I returned, she excitedly exclaimed that she had seen 2 streak by!!  I am still happy for her.

We continued lying there, gazing at the skies and talking both of serious matters and total nonsense. The next thing I knew, I was waking up...and it was 4:30am. I may not have seen a meteorite, but I did add a treasured memory of time spent with my precious granddaughter. God is sooo good!!!

"He made all the stars--the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the southern sky". ~ Job 9:9
New Living Translation ©2007)

** This is a re-print from an old blog post I wrote in 2010. Hard to believe Caitlyn is now a married woman with a child of her own. Doubt either of us will be sleepinig in the backyard again...but I treasure this memory!! 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

41 Will Come by Chuck Tate

40 is a significant number in the Bible. During the time of Noah, it rained for 40 days and 40 nights. Goliath taunted the Israelite army for 40 days. Moses spent 40 years in Egypt and then, with the Israelites, wandered in the desert for 40 years. Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. Jonah, Elijah, and others all had their “40." But what happens next--- 41 ---- is significant. When we are focused on our struggle, our personal 40, we may forget about the victory that follows. In “41 Will Come,” author and pastor Chuck Tate reminds us of the promise that God will come through for you. He, in his seven keys, offers hope and encouragement to those feeling overwhelmed. This is the debut book for Chuck Tate, who was the winner of the 2015 Tyndale Momentum/Re:Write and the Ragged Edge Contest.

Hear the 1st Chapter read by Pastor Chuck:

41 Will Come: Holding On When Life Gets Tough--and Standing Strong Until a New Day Dawns is filled with stories, both Biblical and personal, that will bring encouragement, especially if you are losing hope during a personal time of 40. I did not know what to expect when I agreed to read the book, but I am so glad that I did. I was not going through a particularly discouraging time, but a frustrating time. These many reminders that 41 DOES come gave me both lifted my spirit and served as a reminder of many other 41 moments in my life.

The 7 keys Tate writes about are the following:
  • Know your enemy
  • Know your cause
  • Smash fear in the mouth
  • Shake off doubts and doubters
  • Prepare in order to receive a payoff
  • Word up
  • Attack  
His explanations of each will bring a greater depth of understanding. Some of the stories he tells are moving, and some made me laugh. I am glad this book was written and will recommend it to others.

I received this book free from Tyndale Blog Network Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Thursday, August 11, 2016

God Gave Us Thankful Hearts by Lisa Tawn Bergren

Lil' Pup is sad that autumn is ending. But Mama reminds him about leaves and apple treats---and he learns that he can be happy if he's thankful despite his concerns.

God Gave Us Thankful Hearts,
written by Lisa Tawn Bergren and artwork by David Holm, is a delightful book that tells the story of Lil' Pup who is grumbling over the fact that Winter is approaching. This 40 page hard cover book is simple for a young reader to enjoy, but also suitable for parents to read to younger children. The lesson to be grateful and look for the positive in all things is one that needs to be taught early, and the book is a perfect conversation opener or even a game to encourage children to develop an attitude of gratitude early in life. Children will also love looking at the bright Autumn colors that Holm uses throughout the book

I received a copy of this book from Waterbrook-Multnomah "Blogging For Books" program at no cost to myself. However, I was not required to write a positive review.

Lisa T. Bergren is the author of over forty books, with nearly two million copies sold. Her work includes children’s books, historical and contemporary fiction, women’s nonfiction, and gift books. A freelance writer and editor, Lisa lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She and her husband, Tim, are the parents of three children.

In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:18


Caged No More DVD

Inspired by real events, “Caged No More” is the story of Aggie Prejean (Loretta Devine), a godmother on a desperate search to find her two goddaughters, Skye (Cassidy Gifford) and Elle (Abigail Duhon), who have been kidnapped by their sinister father (Kevin Sorbo). As the details behind the girls’ disappearance begin to unravel, they have been discovered to have been taken overseas to be sold into the sex trade. Aggie enlists the help of the girls’ uncle, a well-respected local philanthropist (Sorbo in a dual role), and his son Wil (Alan Powell), who is former Special Forces. A global hunt ensues, and the team will stop at nothing to see the girls safely returned home. This drama on the horror of Human Trafficking is directed by Lisa Arnold, and also features Anthony Evans, Christos Vasilopoulos, George Kosturos, and Cynthia Gibb.

My Review: The compelling storyline drew me in from the beginning and kept my attention throughout the film. Based on true events, the subject matter of human trafficking is one that needs light and attention brought to public notice. Sorbo does an excellent portrayal of twin brothers who have chosen completely different lifestyles. Kassidy Gifford and Abigail Duhon also bring heartbreaking performances as sisters whose father has sold them into the sex trade industry. Loretta Devine, as Aggie, is their champion who will let nothing stop her from rescuing the girls she helped raise. There really were no weak performances in my opinion.

Caged No More
is part of a trilogy that leaves you eagerly anticipating the next in the series, yet it is not unsatisfying as a stand-alone film. It is not a film for younger or overly-sensitive viewers, but is suitable for teens and older, and excellent for church screenings, awareness groups, etc. The subject matter alone is intense, but the movie is not overly graphic or detailed. In other words, it does not sugar-coat, but leaves much to the imagination. 

I received Caged No More compliments of Word Films and Edify Media Inc for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation aside from a copy of this DVD in exchange for my honest and unbiased personal opinion.

Caged No More on Facebook
Caged No More on IMDb

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Witnesses by Robert Whitlow

"The Witnesses" by Robert Whitlow is a Christian legal thriller set in North Carolina. Parker House is a young attorney, hoping to make a name for himself as an associate in a local firm. A special ability, that he shares with his grandfather, is already making him a valuable asset, but things take a sudden turn when Frank House is visited from someone he knew in World War 2 Germany---when he was known as Franz Haus.

An intriguing woman he meets, and who also happens to be the daughter of a prominent attorney, provides new insights into his grandfather's shrouded past, and also leads to new prospects for Parker when he is offered to head of the new local branch Layla's father is opening. But, is it an attempt to interfere in his daughter's life or related to the mysteries Frank won't discuss?

The action of the book goes back and forth between present day and World War 2, with the narrator's voice also switching between Parker and Frank, yet it just helps add layers to a story that is a page-turner. "The Witnesses" has less focus on legal matters than some of Whitlow's past novels, but a richness of character development that I enjoyed. I also loved the spiritual journey that Frank takes that leads him back to a nearly forgotten childhood memory. The action built up slowly, but kept my interest, and the ending left me satisfied. Altogether a great tale of forgiveness, faith, overcoming the past, and second chances.

I received a complimentary copy of this Thomas Nelson Book from BookLook Bloggers. I was not required to give a good review and all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Fragile World DVD

 Fragile World, written and directed by Sandy Boikian ("Leaving Limbo"), is the story of a lonely interior decorator with a history of delusions who falls in love with a charming stranger. The question he real or a product of her imagination? Starring Alexa Jansson (Rosalie), Noelle Perris (Britt), Benjamin Keepers (August), Marco Aiello (Fitz), and Chad Bishop (Logan), and produced by Lisa Boore Lambert, this film keeps you guessing as it explores the world of mental breakdowns and delusions.

Britt & Rosalie
Sandy Boikian has come through with yet another film that captures my imagination, makes me think, and thoroughly entertains. Leaving Limbo was quirky and fun, but I did not see how she would pull it off again with Fragile World and the serious subject matter. I have watched this film several times now, and pick up things I missed in each viewing. The twists and turns of the story keep you guessing throughout the entire film. Each actor brings another layer, with the main characters giving nuances that build to the suspense of reality and their own conceptions of what is happening. Even the minor ones are vital to giving clues to what is going on. Later you look back and realize that your initial response may have been incorrect. 

Rosalie & August
Rosalie is under so many burdens that suicide seems to be the only solution until she has a chance encounter with August. They don't actually speak, but that spark of interest they each find causes her to make a decision to live. When they do finally run into each other and talk, both quickly fall in love and Rosalie finds a new joy in life. But that is when the viewer discovers that this is not a love story or a film about recovering from heartbreaking circumstances, but a puzzling mystery with pieces that don't quite fit the way we expected. 

Fitz and one of his fans
The first person we see in the film is Fitz, a musician who wants to be a star. Starting off as a character I don't have a favorable impression of, his is a prime example of things not always being what they seem. By the end of the film, I was another of his "adoring fans." By the way, actor/singer Marco Aiello, who plays Fitz has several songs on the soundtrack of the film. Another huge thing for my enjoyment of this film is that I loved the music!! A couple of times I wanted to rewind to hear songs again, but the entire soundtrack is fabulous.

Seriously, this is a multi-award winning film for good reason! I highly recommend it and can hardly wait to see what Sandy Boikian and Bruised Reed Productions will come out with next.

Like Fragile World on Facebook and find out more on the Fragile World website.

Lisa Boore Lambert, Susan Kawashima, Noelle Perris, Willow Hale, Marco Aiello, Alexa Jansson, Sandy Boikian