Book Review: Sure Mercies: Hope for the Suffering

Sure Mercies

40 stories. 40 witnesses for the work of God through Christ. Sure Mercies: Hope for the Suffering highlights figures from the pages of history as well as present-day martyrs. Why is this an important book? When you’re hurting, it is a lonely place to be. Suffering feels isolated. The testimonies of others who suffered help us to see we’re not alone. They were victorious through God’s strength and we can be, too.

I started in the back with the Study Guide, and immediately liked Megan Vance’s style of writing. Her voice is easy on the ear, yet polished and carries depth of character. She describes Sure Mercies from the viewpoint of a hurting girl who connected with the cries of a hurting boy in the book of Psalms. She says David didn’t just memorize the Scriptures as a religious exercise, “he believed what they told him about Jehovah.”

And so this work continues to unfold accounts of those who believed God at His word, and stood for Him in unthinkable circumstances. William Borden gave up his family wealth to pursue missions among the Muslims of China. He died of meningitis. Corrie ten Boom came from Dutch descent and suffered in the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. Richard Wurmbrand spent years in solitary confinement in Communist prisons. Nate Saint and his friends were murdered deep in the jungle of Ecuador by Auca Indians. Yet, in all of these lives, and more, they resolved to follow Christ knowing a life spared would not be worth a witness sacrificed.

Sure Mercies is a compilation of short stories that are tall on inspiration. They tell the back story of those who are part of “God’s chain of grace” extended across time. And they bring hope! Ever wonder if you would be resolute under trial? Megan prays, “Lord, we need not fear our own inadequacy, but only behold Your Son and His finished work. Thank You that He works as we merely yield our lives to Him.”

The Meditation Prayers lead us to remember our future is not our own. The faithful testimony of those within these pages will encourage us to remain steadfast in difficult times. And, as she remarks about Gracie Parker Rosenberger, “Watching Gracie, it’s easier to believe impossibilities can create abundant possibilities.”

Bravo to Megan Vance on a thoroughly researched, well recorded progression of God’s Message over the ages. It is a timely dose of encouragement for us all!

Sally

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Almost Home

On our return from Africa, our Mission Team flew into Toronto for the last leg of driving home to Jamestown, just south of Buffalo. The 17 hours of flight had only served to make us more homesick, as we longed for sweet sleep in our own beds.

Finally, with luggage gathered, tired bodies accounted for and vans retrieved, we settled in for the three hour drive home.

As we approached the Canadian/US Border, we noticed traffic slowing. And then it came to a standstill. We could see the flags of our own country, but could not advance to it.

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In these tumultuous days, we’re watching the effects of sin take a toll on our planet. War, hatred, abuse, the sex trade, people hungry for power, poverty, drought and all sorts of evil in between. And it makes us long for our Heavenly Home. Jesus said we would face trouble. But He also promised His presence would comfort and guide us. This is the time to stand firm and pray. When you hear the news, pray. When you see bad things happen, pray. And when you think you can’t take any more, pray.

Answers in Genesis opened their replica of Noah’s Ark on July 7. One of the first visitors was Bill Nye, who claimed children are being brainwashed. As I scrolled the comments of his supporters, I couldn’t believe the bashing toward Ken Ham (who happens to have the same name as one of Noah’s sons) and his Ark. And I wondered if that was just an inkling of the mocking Noah endured in his day. We are not home yet.

Our Heavenly Home is just over the horizon and our King is on His Return Trip. Stand firm; we’re almost Home.

What helps you stand firm? Leave a comment in the link just under the title, and I’ll send you 6 Tips for Talking to God.

Sally


We are not home yet

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“What is home?”

Our class had a variety of answers; places remembered from the past, or an ideal set apart for our families.  But all I could think about was a feeling.  “You know that feeling you get on Christmas Eve?  When everyone’s in bed, asleep, and everything’s done that can possibly be done?  All that’s needed at that moment is to reflect on The Day to come, and gaze at the lights on the tree.”

That’s my picture of “home.”

Anne Graham Lotz talks about our heavenly home in The Vision of His Glory.  She says the glassy streets of gold will reflect God’s glory with every step that we take.  We will not only have access to the Presence of God (as the Israelites experienced through the priest entering the Tabernacle), but we’ll live in the Presence of God.

No, we are not home yet.  But Jesus is preparing it with painstaking detail, just like a mom would get ready for her college student to come home on break.  Anne reminds us that favorite meals would be prepared, activities planned and phone calls made saying, “My daughter is coming home!”

I can’t wait for my heavenly home!

Sally

Originally published at Sally’s Words


Review & a Giveaway: The NIV Lifehacks Bible!

NIV Lifehacks

If you were offered the key to unlock mysteries, would you take it? The NIV Lifehacks Bible extends that and so much more, in the quest for understanding God’s Word.

It contains 365 articles to explain the process of becoming more like Jesus.

It covers 30 everyday disciplines.

It chronicles 8 different categories of spiritual formation (the process of conforming to the character of Christ).

 

That’s 365 articles for each day of the year.

30 disciplines for each day of the month, on average.

8 categories to examine one a day, plus one.

But do you need to read or apply every entry? The author, Joe Carter says, “No. This Bible contains over 1,000 tips and suggestions, and no one could (or necessarily should) attempt to apply them all. My goal in writing these articles is that every reader will find at least eight things to apply to their life, one in each of the eight categories of spiritual formation.” (Seeing Jesus in Scripture, Prayer, Engaging Scripture, Communion with God, Internal Disciplines, External Disciplines, Responding to God’s Calling and Assessing Spiritual Growth.)

NIV Lifehacks 197 become like Christ

Imagine what would happen to The Church, if all Christians took it upon themselves to make Bible study and discipleship a personal endeavor? This Bible is called “Lifehacks” because we live in an age when we’re looking for tips and tools to handle life more efficiently. Ever wish you could “cut to the chase” in the way you study the disciplines of the Christian life?

This format is a work of genius! The tools draw you into the Word of God with practical clues to texts and connections to concepts. Even the titles entice you to engage your brain… before you know it, you’ve been studying the Bible!

  • When We Should (Probably) Not Agree to Pray for Someone
  • What Lambs Reveal About Jesus
  • The Essential Vocation of Burden Bearing
  • The Benefits of Handwriting Scripture
  • How Honey Helps Us to Know God
  • How 15 Minutes a Day Can Change Your Life
  • Kill the Dragon, Get the Bride

Are you curious yet? Get your own copy today. Or, you can enter the drawing!

I am giving away a copy, courtesy of Zondervan Publishers, to one reader in the continental United States. Leave a comment on my blog (at the top of this post, under the title) about one of your favorite Bible study tools, and you will be entered into the drawing to be held one week from today, July 7. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

Sally

P.S. Each person who leaves a comment will also receive a free pdf, “20 Prompts for Spiritual Journaling,” from the NIV Lifehacks Bible!

 NIV Lifehacks 58 (3) Scripture points to Christ

Disclosure of Material: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through The Blog Spot Network book review program in exchange for a fair and honest review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR Title 16, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Radiant Lit Blog Tour for Jilted!

Jilted

Title:  Jilted

Author: Varina Denman

Genre: Drama

Publisher: David C. Cook

Release Date: June 1, 2016

Lynda Turner has struggled with depression since her husband abandoned her and their young daughter fifteen years ago. Yet unexpected hope awakens when a local ex-convict shows interest. As long-hidden secrets resurface, Lynda must fight for her emotional stability and for a life where the shadow of shame is replaced by the light of love.

Jilted tells of a woman who has lost the joy of living, a man determined to draw her back toward happiness, and a town that must—once and for all—leave the past where it belongs. It is a gentle reminder that all things can work together for good.

Varina Denman handles the demons of depression with raw honesty. Her characters learn that unresolved pain turns into deeper issues; they only find restoration through confrontation. I appreciate her sensitivity toward an illness that is not easy to identify. If you had a broken arm, you would wear a cast. Depression is the result of broken links in the brain, and yet has no outward Band-Aid to warn others to approach cautiously.

Denman also tackles feelings of abandonment and grief. Throughout Jilted, Lynda Turner sees herself as a gal who looks at life as a half-empty glass. Her efforts to face life head on, only leave her depleted. However, in the end, Lynda says, “I had finally realized it didn’t matter if my glass was half full or half empty. That’s not what life was about. What mattered was that God stood behind me with a full pitcher, waiting to refill my plastic tumbler… if only I’d let Him.”

Lest you think these topics are depressing, there are other twists to the plot to keep your attention! Look at my review of Jaded, Book 1 here. And the review of Justified, Book 2 here. This has been an interesting series about a small town in West Texas and how they handle the skeletons in their past. Some that surface, literally, in Jilted, Book 3! Denman’s research into the legalities of a registered sex-offender status, the basics of wind-farm procedures and the dangers involved for workers on the turbines, and the stages of crime scene investigation all pay off to provide an exciting read!

Author Bio

Varina Denman is author of the Mended Hearts series and a native Texan. She spent her high school years in a rural town and now writes stories about the struggles women face in similar small town settings. She and her husband live near Fort Worth, where they enjoy spending time with their five mostly-grown children.

Note: I received this copy of Jilted as a part of the Radiant Lit Jilted blog tour. The book is available for purchase at Amazon.com.

Sally


Book Review: Jaded

Jaded

What do small town gossip, outsiders and forgiveness have in common? They all collide in an unforgettable book called Jaded. Ruthie was a child when she and her mom were kicked out of church. But she always thought the action represented God. When secrets are unearthed that shake her theories, they also shake the church.

Varina Denman has managed to take a look at the worst side of the church, and find good. Her insights into human nature and the result of following others blindly, create opportunity to look in the mirror. We have the same propensity to believe the worst of others, and the use of fiction lays it all bare.

With this first novel, Denman won the 2013 ACFW Genesis Award! She says, “Not all congregations are as bitter as [this], but as long as we’re on earth, the church will be filled with humans who have real-life flaws and opinions. I pray we have the humility and strength to forgive each other’s sins until we reach heaven, where everything will be so, so much easier.”

It is so important that the church listen. We turn others away without knowing their stories, and lose something of ourselves in the process. It is by embracing our differences, that we will really embrace wholeness. And the power of fiction to flesh out a truth is packed beautifully in the pages of Jaded.

Take a look at my review of Book 2 here. And watch for my review of Book 3 on June 30. But, you just may not be able to wait that long! Get your own copies of the Trilogy, and judge for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.

Sally

Note: I received this book as part of the Jilted blog tour from Radiant Lit. I received no compensation for this review and only received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Review copy provided by the publisher for Radiant Lit Blog Tours.


Review & a Giveaway: The NKJV American Woman’s Bible!

NKJV American Womans Bible

The timing for the release of The NKJV American Woman’s Bible, and a celebration of our heritage of faith, could not be better. As we approach the birthday of our nation, we reflect on ways the Lord has intervened for our country, and the principles on which it was built. To say this book is patriotic would be true, but it is so much more. It begins with “A Woman’s Journey To Godliness,” and continues with examples from our nation’s history of women who fleshed out what it meant to embrace faith in tumultuous times.

General Editor, Dr. Richard G. Lee has done his research! Indeed, he compiled the American Patriot’s Bible and authored another twenty-one books. His works highlight the legacy of the Judeo-Christian values that created a foundation for our government and justice system. He says, “American history is no stranger to the fact that God uses humble, unassuming ‘everyday’ people to do extraordinary things.”

I love the behind-the-scenes look at our country. Sidebars are filled with quotes and qualities of virtuous women. Biographies add detail to the lives of many unknown, but influential people. And glossy inserts are packed with the stories of those who sacrificed and served their Lord and country.

In a time when patriotism is ebbing low, this book is an important standard. It lifts up the Word of God and shows how applicable it continues to be, in every generation.

The fascinating biographies include immigrants, pioneers, presidents’ wives, missionaries, writers, peasants, celebrities, slaves, singers and songwriters. Here’s a sampling of the quotes that grabbed my attention:

“You can be too big for God to use, but you cannot be too small.” – Nelle Reagan

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you.” – Corrie ten Boom

“Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other’s welfare, social justice can never be attained.” – Helen Keller

“Faith isn’t the ability to believe long and far into the misty future. It’s simply taking God at His Word and taking the next step.” – Joni Eareckson Tada

“Democracies have been, and governments called, free; but the spirit of independence and the consciousness of unalienable rights, were never before transfused into the minds of a whole people…The feeling of equality which they proudly cherish does not proceed from an ignorance of their station, but from the knowledge of their rights; and it is this knowledge which will render it so exceedingly difficult for any tyrant ever to triumph over the liberties of our country.” – Sarah Josepha Hale

”The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” – Coretta Scott King

Do you love stories of heroes of the faith? Hebrews 12:1 says we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. They are the ones who endured hardship and overcame difficulties with a shining faith in God. The NKJV American Woman’s Bible is an inspiring look at the sacrificial ways women gave their devotion to God’s truths and the practice of those truths in a young nation.

I am giving away a copy, courtesy of Thomas Nelson Publishers, to one reader in the continental United States. Leave a comment on my blog (Comments are at the top, under the title) about a favorite hero of the faith, and you will be entered into the drawing, to be held one week from today, June 16, 2016. Side note for those from my area, there is even a biography of Mary A. Lathbury, who helped found the Chautauqua Movement in Western New York!

Sally

Disclosure of Material: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through the The Blog Spot Network book review program in exchange for a fair and honest review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR Title 16, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Book Review: Miriam

Miriam

Do you ever wonder what it must have been like to experience the Ten Plagues of Egypt, and escape? Or, what cataclysmic event had to happen for the Israelites to be willing to uproot from everything they knew? Miriam, a novel by Mesu Andrews, gives a glimpse behind the scenes, to equip the mind and senses in that process.

Who is Mesu Andrews? She is a student of God’s Word and the award-winning author of Love Amid the Ashes and numerous other novels, including The Pharaoh’s Daughter. She uses fiction to fill in the blanks of long-loved stories of the Bible. Her imagination and research bring details that explain gaps in the passage, causing the stories to jump to life with new vibrancy.

Through the doubts of Miriam and her family, we experience the turmoil they faced in the new revelation Moses brought of God. Andrews captures the pain of unanswered questions and the 400 year silence of El Shaddai. But, like Miriam, we also experience Yahweh anew, as we learn to trust the One who leads us into the unknown.

You’ll want to experience this book, and yes, it is an experience. Through the questions asked by the Israelites, we come to understand the enormity of God’s sacrifice for us, as His Son was represented by the sacrificial lamb, slain at Passover. It sets the stage for the greatest event in history, the sacrifice and resurrection of the Lamb of God.

Miriam is a book that inspires awe and trust in the God who rescued Israel from bondage, and rescues us from a life enslaved to sin.

Sally

FTC disclaimer: “I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.”


Book Review: Kisses from Katie

 

This book is profoundly disturbing. And it shakes me to the core. Kisses from Katie is the story of a high school senior who travels to Uganda and subsequently invests her life in the people she meets there. Katie Davis says her life is not extraordinary, but she goes on to describe extraordinary ways the Lord shows up in desperate circumstances.

Katie Davis came with no formal training, no formal backing and no formal plan. She was compelled to get involved, and took the first step. She used her hands and feet to show God’s love in practical ways, and became known in an impoverished land as “Mommy.” Indeed, at age 18, she fed, schooled, applied medical help, housed and eventually adopted. Now, ten years later, Katie’s nonprofit has a Board of Directors, farming education to sustain life, food outreach, a self-sustaining vocational program and sponsors over 700 children.

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Katie says, “Jesus wrecked my life.”

I’ve run into that phrase before. It means she became uncomfortable with her comfortable life. And her words create discomfort with the way we’re doing things in Western society.

Katie found a paradox in Uganda: “amazing, breathtaking beauty juxtaposed against immense poverty and desolation.”

She says, “Materially speaking, the people who began to fill my life were the poorest I had ever met and yet they overflowed with the riches of the heart. They lived in houses of sticks or stones and mud; they slept on hard dirt floors. But they did not blame God for this or ask Him for more. They knew their circumstances were due to the brokenness of this world and they simply praised Jesus for keeping them alive through it all.”

Katie saw children dying from preventable diseases and knew she had to find help. She began to contact people in her hometown of Nashville, TN in search of those willing to come alongside her. She described the need, not as statistics, but as “people I know and love.”

Katie’s approach to her life and work in Uganda might be considered radical, even controversial. She gives to people who cannot repay. She helps those who should be able to help themselves. Yet, the message is an important one. We must get involved. When God’s people reach out to others, that love will transform people, one life at a time.

If you want to stay comfortable, don’t read this book. It gets under your skin. However, I challenge you to get your own copy and a pen. Highlight ideas, quotes and values. Let two worlds merge in your own heart as you seek how the Lord will lead you to be obedient, as a missionary, right where you are. And, in your imperfect, inadequate efforts to serve Him, you will find new release as you lean on Christ.

Sally


The Nest

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How does she do it, that Momma bird? She makes a home for her babies that is tightly knit. It rests on the ledge of my windowsill like a little castle on top of a mountain. Twigs, feathers and all manner of layers are woven together to create a safe haven. We startle Momma Bird every time we walk into the room, so I took to leaving the blinds closed. I wanted her to know we wouldn’t harm her brood.
We stick together, us Mommas. We find ways to help each other as we bring our babies into the world. We protect and feed our babies and we provide a safe haven for them, all in the hopes that one day they will discover their own wings.

It’s a tricky thing, this process of letting go. You raise your brood to be independent thinkers, yet when they achieve that, they no longer need Momma anymore. Or, so I thought. In the same weekend we watched our daughter march across the platform to get her diploma, she reminded me of words of wisdom from my own Mom. And I knew for a fact that you never outgrow your need for your Mom.
Sally
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