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Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Eighty Percent Rule for Husbands

Elisabeth Elliot quoted her second husband in her book, Love Has a Price Tag:

 “A wife, if she is very generous may allow that her husband 
lives up to eighty percent of her expectations. 
There is always the other twenty percent that she would like to change, 
and she may chip away at it for the whole of their married life 
without reducing it very much. She may, on the other hand, 
simply decide to enjoy the eighty percent, 
and both of them will be happy.”

Elisabeth Elliot might well have known this was true. She was first married to the swashbuckling Jim Elliot, who sought to evangelize tribes of people who had absolutely no background in Christianity. He hacked through the jungle, swam in its rivers, hand-built a house for his family, and made tentative contacts with the natives, who murdered him and his friends. Thirteen years later, she married professor Addison Leitch, who passed away four years later. Then, she married Lars Gren, who won her heart through his unwavering service. He outlives her.

So, what do we expect? 

I’m afraid that women’s expectations go up and up and up while the character of men goes down and down. Without bemoaning the state of manhood today, let’s look at women’s expectations. Are they too high? What influenced them in the first place?

The flawlessly dreamy prince on his white steed and happily ever after is a myth, of course. But if so, what are women supposed to look for? Aren’t girls supposed to dream big and not settle for second best?

Oh yes! 

                And no.

When we need to know the truth, we go to the fountain of Truth, the Bible. What does it teach us about the qualities to be looking for in any potential mate? What does it teach us about marriage itself? You might be surprised!

Must-have, biblical qualities of a potential mate:
  1. He has to be a Christian. Can two walk together, except they be agreed? (Amos 3:3) Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14) Also see Exodus 34:16 and Deuteronomy 7:1-3.
  2. He needs to be drop dead handsome. (Just kidding! The only qualification mentioned by Scripture is Christian compatibility.)

Let me qualify a little bit by using common sense. The Bible talks about being unequally yoked, agreed, and of the same mind. I really believe it’s a huge mistake to marry someone who will drag you down in your faith. Look for:
  • Is he faithful to his church? 
  • Is he actively serving God in his church?
  • Is he in touch with the Lord on a personal basis? (Does he read the Bible and pray? Does he show a daily desire to please God? Does he talk with you about spiritual things?)
  • Where are his values and priorities? (Possessions, entertainment, philosophy of life, vices, attitudes, spending, hobbies, etc.)
  • Is he honest?
  • Is he violent? (Temper, physically, words, etc.)
  • Is he kind?

Is there anything about this man that you absolutely do not want to live with? If so, it’s time to say adios. 

This guy is a keeper. You marry him—gorgeous dress and ceremony—and you begin your life together. You find out quickly that Addison Leitch had it just about right. Your dreamy husband is about 80% what you’d like him to be. He’s terrific, but he’s a long way from perfect.

What to do?

First, look in the mirror. What do you see? Are you a ten? Nope, you’re probably—if you’re honest—just about 80% your husband’s dream girl. 

So, how do you have a terrific marriage with two eighty percents?

If you add 80% + 80% you get 160%. That means it’s still better than one! A whole lot better than one! The Bible says, two are better than one (Ecclesiastes 4:9a). Look at the good stuff. Enjoy his positives. Love your husband as he is, and appreciate him. Respect him as head of your home. Compliment, praise, adore. 

And, you know what will happen? He will gradually change for the better. An appreciated person wants to be appreciated, so he’ll try even harder to gain your approval. Praise him, and he’ll strive to hear that praise again.

Do you know what else will happen? You’ll change.

You will quit looking at the way he leaves his clothes on the floor or misses the laundry basket. You’ll quit dwelling on how he chews his food. You’ll quit being critical and demanding and acting like his mother instead of his wife. You’ll be a happy wife . . .

and, you’ll have a happy husband.

Your guy is 80%. Great! Enjoy him!

In a few years . . . he’ll be up to 90%. (Shhhh! It’s our little secret.)


For more about Elizabeth Elliot, you can read her biography here.

Note: This post isn’t about ignoring abuse. If your husband is violent or abusive toward you, report it to the authorities and get the protection you need. Also, get Christian counseling and support.

Monday, June 27, 2016

What Would the Church and the World Be Like If . . . ?

The evangelist Henry Varley once told Dwight L. Moody, “The world has yet to see what God will do with, and for, and through, and in, and by, the man who is fully consecrated to Him.”*

One wonders what the church and the world would be like if:
  • Christ were foremost in every Christian’s life. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2) 
  • Every Christian loved God with all his being. And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might (Deuteronomy 6:5).
  • Christians obeyed God whole-heartedly. This day the LORD thy God hath commanded thee to do these statutes and judgments: thou shalt therefore keep and do them with all thine heart, and with all thy soul (Deuteronomy 26:16).
  • Every Christian hated sin. The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate (Proverbs 8:13).
  • Christians desired to please the Lord. When a man's ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him (Proverbs 16:7).
  • Born again people were continually communicating with God. Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
  • Christians evidenced joy in the midst of any circumstance. Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice (Philippians 4:4).
  • Every Christian were honest—always. Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly (Hebrews 13:18).
  • Christians thought about what God says to think about. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Philippians 4:8).
  • Christians loved others as themselves. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself (Galatians 5:14).
  • Every Christian served God in his local church. I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea (Romans 16:1).
Can you imagine this kind of a world?

It will happen, but not quite yet. 

What if only a handful of people in your church—starting with you—began to live as God wants every Christian to live? Can you imagine the impact on your community? 

What would happen?
  • Your joy and love would impact others.
  • People would be saved.
  • Families would be strengthened.
  • Your church would grow in number and in spirit.
  • Teens would be challenged to live for God.
It would be incredible!

So, what’s holding us back?

Let's live for God today! We’ll change the world!


*It's thought that this quote may have originated with John Knox.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

It Needs to Come From the Heart--Or Does It?

I’ve been reading different Christian articles lately, and I’m seeing the same theme over and over again. It’s basically the idea that you can teach a bunch of rules, and if the compliance doesn’t come from the heart, it isn’t genuine, so it's only outward conformity—which ends up in superficiality. They have a valid point, of course. Our goal as Christian teachers, parents, (pastors, too) is to see our students do right from the heart. Anything less is superficial.

What if we set no standards in our churches, Christian schools, camps, etc., and no one is held to a code of behavior? Should there be a list of rules or not? Should we wait until everyone grows spiritually enough to do right from the heart?

In the Bible, we have a clear code of conduct. It’s from the beginning of time. Adam and Eve were given several rules and one prohibition. They were perfect individuals, yet they were given a job—to manage the earth and its resources—and they were told what not to do—eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

They disobeyed and brought the curse of sin on the earth. Mankind was then given ten easy laws with the Ten Commandments, The Jews had a lot more—over six hundred more—which made up the Old Testament Law (also called the Law of Moses). These guidelines covered everything from loving God to how to wash one’s body and take care of medical problems.

As you know, the Ten Commandments are: 
  1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
  2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.
  3. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain.
  4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
  5. Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
  6. Thou shalt not kill.
  7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
  8. Thou shalt not steal.
  9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
  10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house,  . . . wife, . . . manservant, . . . maidservant, . . . ox, . . . ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s (from Exodus 20:3-17).

The Ten Commandments set the moral law for everyone for all time. 

So, what if someone doesn’t feel like following them? What if the idea of breaking one of them comes from the heart? It happens. Jesus said,  For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies (Matthew 15:19). Not a pretty picture!  

I’m a pastor’s wife, and most of my counseling is with first-generation Christians. Most of them came to Christ in their teens or adulthood, and they're usually the only born again Christians in their families. This means that discipleship starts with the basics of doctrine and faith. It’s so fantastic when these women see for the first time what the Bible says about the lifestyles around us. They’re amazed! It’s new territory. I see two reactions. Some balk and argue and struggle. Others sweetly obey the Bible.

The Lord wants that second reaction, of course. The Apostle Paul made this observation about those who obeyed the Bible willingly: But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you (Romans 6:17).

God is pleased when His children obey Him because they want to.

But, what about those who don’t really feel like it? Don’t the rules apply? Should we not have rules in the first place?

Let me tell you a little story. It’s totally made-up, but it might help you visualize this better.

Once upon a time, there was an incorrigible little girl named Sophie. Almost from birth, her parents could tell she was full of character! She had an attitude. Her parents were at a loss. What do you do with a child like her? How should we guide Sophie?

So, they went to a parenting expert. He said, “Don’t ask too much of her. Use as few guidelines as you can. That way, there’s less for her to rebel against.”

Sophie’s parents went home. They never said, “Don’t touch.” So Sophie destroyed all the plants and pretty things in the house—everything she could reach. They never said, “You must not . . . .” So Sophie grew up with terrible manners. No one wanted to be with her. She bit and kicked other children. She threw fits everywhere—especially in public places. Her parents were afraid to correct her. Sophie embarrassed her parents so much they didn’t want to take her places. They were dumbfounded. After all, they had followed the expert’s advice.

They had wanted Sophie to want to do right, but Little Sophie had no guidelines. She wasn’t sure of her boundaries. Being by birth a little sinner, she perfected her manipulations and sins. Soon, she had no friends, and even her parents threw their hands up in desperation.

Let me tell you another story, also fiction.

Once upon a time, there was a Christian school teacher. Mrs. N was strict and developed very good class control. She expected courtesy. She used a system of warnings, but after three, they knew they would be punished with the loss of a privilege. After five warnings, they were marched to the Principal’s office. 

The first couple of weeks of school were challenging for Mrs. N, because she was teaching behavior as well as subjects. But, by the third week, all the students knew what was expected of them. They were getting fewer warnings, and the Principal had almost no visits from Mrs. N’s class.

Her students thrived.

Visitors to Mrs. N’s class were amazed at the quiet, orderly students, their respect, and their happy faces. Children were eager to answer questions and actually seemed to love learning.

In the Christian life, it’s similar. The Bible sets clear limits and boundaries for Christian behavior. In the New Testament, it gives an outline for churches, as well. When we teach those godly rules, I believe we’re doing our friends and children a service. These are God’s boundaries, not made-up lists. 

While I totally agree that it’s best that obedience comes from the heart, I believe it’s our obligation to provide a framework of God-given rules as boundaries. The last thing you want is for your children and church people to only outwardly conform. But not to teach them biblical rules is a disservice. The Bible says:
  • Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right (Ephesians 6:1). Teach your children to obey you simply because it’s right to do so. (As parents, we are responsible to God for our demands.)
  • And for adults: And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams (1 Samuel 15:22). God wants our obedience.

Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; 
but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.
 (Ephesians 6:6).

Friday, June 24, 2016

"I Looked Into His Eyes and Saw His Soul"

On social media, I found a photo of a dog with big brown eyes. The message under the photo? “I looked into his eyes and saw his soul.” A few weeks later, I was browsing and saw a macro photo of a snail’s stalk with its eye at the end. The message under it was the same. I laughed out loud! I mean—a snail’s soul?

No one can deny that animals have personalities. Anyone who’s owned a dog, horse, or cat knows that! 

Years ago, we were visiting a friend whose hobby was fish. He had multiple aquariums in his home and office. He talked to the large fish in the aquarium behind his desk. To my surprise, the fish surfaced and exhibited joy—if you could actually say that fish are joyful. I learned that day that even fish have personalities. Amazing!

We live out in the country, and the European robins and wrens are so friendly that sometimes they’re only a yard away from us. They come near and watch my husband as he works outside. 

In the news, we read about rhino poaching, killing elephants for their tusks, killing whales for meat, the stately lion for sport, and the gorilla to protect the little boy. More and more, the term used for killing these magnificent animals is “murder.”

Do snails, fish, dogs, horses, elephants, birds, gorillas, and rhinos—and all the other animals—have souls? They have personalities. Do they have souls?

My mother and I are “convinced” that our good, old dog went to “doggy heaven” when he died. My mother even joked about him being one of the “beasts” mentioned in Revelation 4—knowing full well he wasn’t. But, he was such a good dog! Don’t good dogs go to heaven?

Do animals have souls?

Is it murder to kill an animal?

Is hunting morally wrong?

In the Hindu religion, it’s believed that all life has a soul. You should not kill any animal for any reason. Of course, Hindus don’t eat meat, and they don’t use bug spray. They believe that people actually reincarnate as either “higher caste” people or as lower life forms, so the ant you see might actually be a person in a lower life form.

I believe the Bible is the Divine Word of God. Let’s see what it has to say about animals and people and souls. Read with me: And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. And the evening and the morning were the fifth day. And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

Now, God creates man and woman: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth (Genesis 1:20-28). 

What’s the difference between the animals and people? Man and woman were made in the image of God. They were also given authority over the animals on land and sea, and in the air.

Let’s read the detailed account about the creation of Adam, the first man: And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul (Genesis 2:7). Notice, the man is a soul. That’s not said about any of the animals. Later, God makes woman out of man. She—as seen in Genesis 1:27-28, above—is also made in the image of God.
  • Animals aren’t made in the image of God. People are. 
  • Animals aren’t given more importance than people. People have more importance than animals. In fact, the first people were told to manage and take care of the animals.
  • Animals don’t have souls. People do.

After the Flood, God permitted animals to be killed for food. Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things (Genesis 9:3). (Vegetarians and vegans: you have the right to eat as you please. I have no problem with you if you choose not to eat meat.) 

That’s basically my personal philosophy about hunting and fishing. Hunt for meat; hunt to actually eat what you’re hunting. Many of my relatives hunt—and eat what they shoot. They also eat the fish they catch—or release them, alive, back into the water. 

An argument can also be made for culling, because it manages the population of animals, so that the food chain balance is maintained. Responsible fishing is part of this same idea of managing our natural resources.

While animals do have “person”alities, and they really, truly become part of our families, they aren’t people. Biblically, they don’t have the same worth—souls—as people. We aren’t told to spread the gospel to animals, nor are we condemned if we kill one for meat. (The Bible does talk about kindness to animals and admonishes against mistreatment.*) 

So, the next time you look into your dog’s eyes—or snail’s eye, for that matter—remember you’re seeing a nice dog with a pleasant personality. You're not looking into a soul.


* Kindness to animals: Deuteronomy 25:4 (repeated in the New Testament: 1 Corinthians 9:9 and 1 Timothy 5:18); Proverbs 12:10; Matthew 12:11; Luke 14:5.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Women and Pornography: The Problem and Steps to Take

I see all kinds of blog posts about men and porn, but oddly, no one seems to mention women’s use of porn. Statistics say that between twenty and fifty percent of women are porn users. It’s obvious that it’s not only guys who are into this. Nor is it a new phenomenon. Years ago, women read erotic romance novels—the vicarious thrill of reading steamy love scenes with fictional characters. Then, it was music videos with their extreme sexual lyrics and dance moves. Add movies with sex scenes. And, there’s porn—book, script, spoken, and pictures.

I heard this definition of porn: “you know it when you see it.” Why is it so . . . differentBecause porn’s not beautiful, pure, wholesome, or helpful. It’s a totally distorted depiction of sexuality and not at all what God wants for us.

How do I know? (No, I’ve never accessed it. I won’t even do a word search.) Anything other than God’s standard isn’t right.

Let’s look at what the Bible says about sexuality, and we’ll draw some practical conclusions. Note: Many of these passages are written to men, but the same principles are valid for women.

  • Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee (Isaiah 26:3).
  • Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Philippians 4:8). 
  • I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid? (Job 31:1)
  • I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me (Psalm 101:3).
  • Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way (Psalm 119:37).
  • But mine eyes are unto thee, O GOD the Lord: in thee is my trust; leave not my soul destitute (Psalm 141:8). 
  • Jesus said, But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart (Matthew 5:28).
  • God only approves of sex in marriage, not in any other context. Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well. . . . Let them be only thine own, and not strangers’ with thee. Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love. And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and embrace the bosom of a stranger? For the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD, and he pondereth all his goings. His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins (Proverbs 5:15; 17-22).
  • Thou shalt not commit adultery (Exodus 20:14). 
  • My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies. I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine: he feedeth among the lilies (Song of Solomon 2:16; 6:3).
  • Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body (1 Corinthians 6:18).
  • Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife (1 Corinthians 7:2-4).

Pornography is like a drug. It affects the mind. It causes people to want more and different highs. It messes people up. It twists people’s thinking, desires, expectations, and marriages. Even women are addicted to unrealistic lies about something God wants to be amazingly beautiful. 

Is it any wonder we’re having problems in our churches? (Oh yes, some Christians use it, too.)

If you read what you shouldn’t, look at what you shouldn’t, listen to word porn, or look at pictures, what can you do to change? If you’re addicted, what can you do? 

Is there healing? Can you please God?

Happily, the answer is yes!

If you’ve been involved in porn, or you’re counseling someone with this addiction, here are six biblical steps for victory:
  1. Confess your sin. Call it sin. Confess it to God. He will forgive. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
  2. Kill the specific sin of pornography. Cut it off! Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence . . . . (Colossians 3:5a). Get rid of whatever avenue you use to access porn: movies, books, music videos, magazines, etc., and make yourself completely transparent and accountable for all of your online activity. Make sure you only access content when you are with someone else, and the screen is easily seen. If you’re married, become accountable to your spouse, and do any and all Internet access in your living room, accompanied by your husband. If you accessed porn on your phone, switch to a simple “dumb phone,” so that all you can do is make phone calls. Do these measures sound radical? They are. Do you want to please God? Take charge. Kill the habit. Go cold turkey. 
  3. Be accountable to someone. And let us consider one another to provoke (spur on) unto love and to good works (Hebrews 10:24). In addition to your husband, it’s good to have extra prayer support and accountability. Find a godly woman who will regularly ask you how you’re doing. Ask her to pray with you and for you. If you slip up, be honest and tell her. Ask the Lord for forgiveness and help, and move on. Be determined to do right. 
  4. Substitute good for bad. That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24). It’s so very important not to leave a void when we give up sinful habits. If you used to read erotic novels, change to reading Christian adventure or mystery novels (not romances!). You can also read classics, like Jane Austen’s books—and watch the movies made from them. If you have a problem with MTV, control what you watch by investing in old, squeaky clean movies and watching them with your family. If you have problematic online habits, I’d advise reading Christian blogs, following Christian women on Pinterest (Follow me, if you like!), and limiting yourself to clean social media.
  5. Gratitude is an antidote for impure thoughts and actions. Read what the Bible says in Ephesians 5:3-4. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. When our hearts are giving thanks to God, they aren’t dwelling on impure thoughts. When you’re tempted to look at, read, or watch anything that glorifies fornication and other filthy behavior, start thanking the Lord for His goodness. Praise Him! It will change you.
  6. Wear the armor of God daily.  Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:11-17).
Pornography doesn't please God and it shouldn't have a place in a Christian's life. If you access porn in any form, ask the Lord to help you stop today. If you have a friend who's addicted, share this post with her and offer to be her accountability partner. God bless you!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Fiction Review: Better Than Fiction

Better Than Fiction, by April W. Gardner and Michelle Massaro is the story of a fiction writer named Meghan. Her romance novel, titled Racing Hearts, is set in the car racing world of 1916. A female mechanic, Winifred Fisher, and a rich racer, Russell Keegan, pair up for chills and spills as they discover their love.

While writing, Meghan is going through her own love story, but it’s a marriage on the rocks. She doubts her husband, is attracted by someone else, and finally gives up on trying. 

Witness both stories—the fictional romance and the true story of Meghan’s marriage—as you follow them through ups and downs, trust issues, and happily ever afters.

It’s a fascinating book. I thought the fictional romance was page-turning and entertaining, while I honestly wondered where the authors were going with the real-life marriage. They had me scared, which is exactly what they connived together in their writers’ pow-wows. I can imagine these two women rubbing their hands with glee.

Meghan and her husband finally come to terms with the truth—two different truths—and I wouldn’t want to spoil the ending for you for anything. You must read this book! The themes of romance and transparency in marriage, being honorable as well as honest, and so much more come through loud and clear. 

I would caution you, as there is some mild sensuality and a few clear descriptions of seduction in marriage. This is for adults. There are no explicit sex scenes and no profanity. This is a Christian book, and it has wonderful, practical themes for anyone’s marriage. I enjoyed reading it, and I really appreciated all the thoughtful plotting that went into Better Than Fiction. It’s refreshingly different.

Five stars.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

How to Avoid Being a Soft Target--A Christian Viewpoint

The Orlando massacre brought it home again to Americans: one evil person can kill a lot of people. It is so sad. I weep with the families.

The more recent U. S. massacres have taken place in: night clubs, cinemas, schools, a government center for people with needs, a church, and on military bases and recruitment centers.

People are fearful. Where next? What are we supposed to do to protect ourselves? Are we safe anywhere?

I live overseas, and we often get notices from the U. S. Embassy that tell us to be very careful about going to events where there are a lot of people, popular tourist spots, places where people congregate, etc.

So, should we avoid sports events, church, going out to restaurants, etc.? Do we hole up and take cover?

Think back to the attacks in Paris. They were in multiple venues: street cafés and restaurants, a sports arena, and a nightclub. Is it risking your life to drink coffee at a café or go to a soccer game?

How can we avoid being a target?

The precious little children at the Sandy Hook only went to school. The college students and teachers at Virginia Tech. were only studying. The people at the center in California were doing their jobs.

Do we avoid living?

I personally don’t go to nightclubs and never have (because I’m a Christian and that’s not consistent with what I believe pleases God). But, when I think of all of those murdered in Bali, Paris, and Orlando, my heart breaks for the loss of life. Most of the victims were young people trying to have a good time. Many parents are grieving today. It’s beyond sad.

So, what can you do to keep from being a soft target?

For Christians, here are four biblical concepts:
  1. Do what honors God. This means living your life to glorify Him. For most families, that means buying groceries, participating in healthy functions, and going to church regularly. It means being out with friends and family, having a social life, and sharing Christ. For in him we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17:28a).
  2. Acknowledge God’s sovereignty. The Lord knows where you are and what you’re doing. He is never taken by surprise, and He is everywhere. It doesn’t matter where you live or what you do for a living; God is always aware of you. Nothing will happen to you without His knowledge or permission. Your date of death is in His hands. Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? Are not his days also like the days of an hireling? (Job 7:1) The LORD knoweth the days of the upright: and their inheritance shall be for ever (Psalm 37:18).
  3. Be completely committed to Christ, so that if you live or die, your life will glorify Him. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's (Romans 14:8). I think of the lovely testimony of those who died in the Charleston shooting and their relatives afterwards. God was glorified in life and death.
  4. Don’t live in fear. Some people count 365 “fear nots” and “do not be afraids” in the Bible. (However you count them, there are many!) God doesn’t want us to fear. He wants us to trust in Him. What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me (Psalm 56:3-4).

And, some practical advice:
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Be watchful when you’re out in public. If anything seems suspicious, move away, and if necessary, report what you’ve observed to security.
  • If you hear gunshots, run away if you possibly can. If you can't run, shelter as fast as you can. Get behind something or under something, and stay quiet. If you can, phone 911 (or the emergency number in your area). Even if you’re not able to speak, emergency responders will see your call and location.

No matter where you live in the world, there are good people and bad people. A few individuals in any society are unstable and evil enough to kill.

If we acknowledge that God is in control, and He knows where we are, we can rest in Him. It’s for us to be vigilant, wise, and to do whatever we can in any life situation.

So teach us to number our days,
that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
(Psalm 90:12)

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Adding to the Bible?

I recently read a review of a new movie about Jesus, which covers the forty days He was tempted by the devil in the desert.* The Bible doesn’t give details, but the movie does. Jesus is presented as dirty, hungry, talking to Satan, tempted with lust, and what the reviewer terms “edgy theology.” The Bible details none of these forty days in the life of Jesus, except that He fasted and was tempted. Then, we’re told about the final temptations, which Jesus defeated with Scripture.

I often read teaching materials. They might be children’s curricula or Bible studies for adults. So many of them take liberties with the Word of God. They tell the children, “And then Moses (or David, or Jesus, or another biblical person) said . . . .” The problem is, what the biblical character supposedly says is completely made up by the author. You won’t find those words in the Bible. The teaching text doesn’t even say, “You might imagine that Moses said . . . .” Nope! It teaches the story as a made-up story, just as you might be reading Peter Rabbit and adding your own words to “hippety hoppity,” along the way.

Does the Word of God need embellishment? Why can’t we just teach what it actually says—and leave out what it doesn’t say?

Why is this so important? Why shouldn’t we add colorful imagination to the Bible? Why be so protective of its words?

For one thing, the Bible is perfect. It is God’s revelation to mankind.  
  • For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away (1 Corinthians 13:9-10).
  • At the very end of the Bible, God says, And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book (Revelation 22:19). When the Bible was completed, it was the revealed Word of God. There isn’t any more, and there’s no need to add to it. The Bible contains all the Word of God that anyone needs to know. 

When we read the words straight from the Bible, it helps our audience learn to respect God’s Word. It lends authority to the story—that it’s Bible and not just a bedtime fable. When you teach Sunday school or any other class, the audience notices if you’re quoting from the Bible. I suggest that when you’re telling a Bible story, you read directly from the text when you quote a biblical character.

The Bible—its words—has the power to change lives. 
  • For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
  • For the word of God is quick (living), and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
  • Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever (1 Peter 1:23).

The Word of God is spiritual food.
  • But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).
  • As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby (1 Peter 2:2).

Apparently, adding to the Word of God and twisting its meaning isn’t a new problem. Read what Paul says in his letter to the church at Corinth:
  • For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ (2 Corinthians 2:17).
  • But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God (2 Corinthians 4:2).

So, is it wrong to add to the Bible? Yes, the Bible says so, as we read (above) in Revelation 22:19. The Bible must be compared with itself for interpretation. We can’t just pull a verse out of context and make up our own thing.
  • Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost (2 Peter 1:20-21). 
  • Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (1 Timothy 2:15).

What about biblical, historical fiction? Is it taboo? I believe it depends on how it’s written. 
  • Is it meticulously faithful to the biblical facts? 
  • Does it reflect the holiness of God? 
  • Is it pure?

I have read some very good biblical fiction, which challenged me to live for the Lord. One series made me look into the Bible to check the facts! (They were accurate.) I’ve also read some terrible biblical fiction, which was lustful. (I actually didn’t finish two books.) Do we need to be imagining biblical characters like Joseph, being seduced by Potiphar’s wife, in vivid detail? No, the Bible tells us all we need to know. I think that an author who wishes to write a biblical novel needs to do so with a great respect for the Bible. He must use the biblical text as a background for his novel and stay true to it where they intersect. (This goes for movies, drama, and other art forms, as well. Surely, you’ve seen how Hollywood messed up The Ten Commandments.)

Let’s respect God’s Word and stay faithful to its holy text! 

 How sweet are thy words unto my taste! 
yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! 
Through thy precepts I get understanding: 
therefore I hate every false way. 
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, 
and a light unto my path.
 (Psalm 119:103-105)

* Last Days in the Desert, movie review in World Magazine, May 28, 2016.