November 28, 2012

7 Ways to Trust Your Conscience

Have you ever wondered about the evidence of the Holy Spirit in your life? How do you know if it's the Holy Spirit speaking or just yourself? When can you trust your conscience?

I found these seven great points very helpful in answering these questions.

They are taken from a sermon by Charles Stanley.

Hope they encourage you! :)


You can trust your conscience...

1. When Jesus is your Savior and Lord

2. When the Word of God is the basis for your conduct

3. When you have a strong desire to obey God

4. When you prayfully consider decisions

5. When it alarms you immediately when you consider wrongdoing

6. When you feel guilty immediately upon disobedience

7. When you feel compelled to repent of disobedience


November 26, 2012

Nowhere but Up: The Story of Justin Bieber's Mom

This book was not what I was expecting, coming from a pop star's mom.

Instead I found a heart wrenching testimony of an abused girl who desperately wanted to be loved.

I also wasn't expecting an overly Godly book from a pop star's mom.

But that's what I found, a story of a woman who sought God in her pain and glorifies Him through her story.

Pattie's experiences of sexual abuse are shared in an honest and no holds bared way, which may be hard for some to read. It was hard for me. You feel her pain, a pain God is healing, but is not completely gone. I really appreciated this honesty. Just because you become a Christian doesn't mean you don't suffer with pain or mess up sometimes. God heals in his time, not ours. And He often does this by building our trust, letting us learn in time, He is trustworthy.

I'm reading another book right now called 'C is for Christmas' by father and son, David and Warren Wiersbe. In a section about hope they talk about how the Holy Spirit sustains us and builds us up in our walk with God. I found it encouraging and thought I'd share it here:

"The Holy Spirit does not let us focus on what is wrong or painful. He consistently points us to Jesus, who is our source of hope. The Spirit works to reproduce the character of Jesus in us, genuinely transforming us. The hope provided by the Spirit is not a trickle, but a constant stream, so that we 'overflow with hope.' That doesn't mean we ignore life's realities or turn a blind eye to serious issues. It means having an undefeated forward look because the Holy Spirit is present and at work in us."

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13

I learnt a lot from reading this book. One thing that was really interesting to me was how she thought of God before she became a Christian. She was completely disinterested in Him. It gave me a better understanding of how non-believers feel and think and how to be more sensitive to this.

This also reinforced how we as Christians are not here to convert people to our religion, make them agree with us or prove that we are right, but we are here to share the Truth and love as Christ loved so that HE can change their lives.

Pattie just needed one person to love her like Christ loves her. That's all it took.

After I read this book I went online and read a bunch of reviews. Most were kind and respectful, but some were not. Some said things like she needs to 'get over it' or called it a' pathetic book' mocking her abuse.

This is why so many women who are abused never speak out. They are afraid of being mocked or told to get over it. They are afraid the feelings of unworthiness will be affirmed by comments like this.

One reviewer said the book was too 'Jesus-y.' But for me that's what made this book so special.

Jesus is the one, and only one, who will never  let you down, never  mock you and never  tell you to get over it.

He is a man of sorrows, which means he feels our pain and grief deeply and suffers along with us. Long ago a prophet named Isaiah described Him this way:


"He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him."

When he sees us weeping in our pain he comes and sits and weeps with us.

In the gospel of John we see a woman weeping because her brother has died. Jesus doesn't go to her and tell her to stop crying and get over it, instead he weeps with her, then takes her to the tomb and raises her brother from the dead! That's what he can do for you. Come to Him and He'll weep with you, He can raise you from the pain and deadness in your life.

He also knows what it feels like to have your trust betrayed, to be hated and despised.

The name Judas brings up thoughts of betrayal, but what we often forget is that Judas was one of Jesus's closest friends. Jesus knows that feeling of complete betrayal from someone he should have been able to trust.

Jesus asked "Whom are you seeking?" They answered Him, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus said to them, "I am He." And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them" John 18:5

Unlike those who abuse and betray, Jesus is trustworthy and kind. He will build you up and remind you, you are worthy in Him. When you come to Jesus, you will never be alone.

Pattie is a brave woman to share her story. The amount of women who have scars of child sexual abuse is staggering and I pray this book speaks to woman out there who have been used and abused, that there is a God who loves you, you are not alone. And when you mess up He's a God of second chances, third chances, seventy times seven chances. His grace is sufficient, He is enough, He is all you need.

On the lighter side, if you are a Justin Bieber fan, yes, she talks a lot about him too. :)  From when she first heard him cry (sing), to raising him as a single mom, and how he got into the music business. I loved reading about their relationship. Pattie loves her boy and Justin is a wonderful example to kids everywhere on how to treat your parents with love and respect. I highly recommend this one.

Buy it HERE on Amazon




November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!


"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God." Philippians4:6

                                              
                                          To all my American readers! : )

November 19, 2012

All Things New

I was so excited to see Lynn Austin had written another Civil War novel. Her books from her 'Refiner's Fire' series have always been favorites of mine. :)

Set at the end of the Civil War, when southern families are trying to piece their lives back together and slaves are adjusting to their new found freedom, Josephine Weatherly has harden her heart and turned away from God.

Josephine, the main character in this story, is a woman of 22 who has lost her father and brother to the war and finds their plantation has fallen into ruins. Everyone around her is also facing their own struggles and heartaches, her family, their friends and most of all, the slaves.

Josephine's mother is also struggling with letting go of the old  ways and finding it hard to cope with this new life.

Then there is Lizzie, a former slave, now free. Her and her family, though free, still find themselves faced with hatred from the southerners.

I thought I'd share two things that really stood out to me in this book.

Firstly, was the attitude of the mother in this novel. She was so stuck in her ways that she was afraid of any change in her life. She desperately tries to piece her old life back together. A life where she is comfortable and slaves take care of all her needs. As her daughter struggles with what is right and wrong and begins to see the former slaves as people with dreams and goals, she questions the old ways and wonders why her mother seems to have such compassion for her neighbors, but none for her former slaves who are now her paid servants. Her mother senses her daughters changing views and is frightened by them.

Here in this conversation with Josephine we see her mother's attitude of fear:

"Josephine, I know you think I'm being harsh and unreasonable, but I want what's best for you. It's important that you continue to be accepted as part of this community, and that means you can't go against our established values.' 

'Even if those values are wrong?'...

'I don't want you to end up all alone. You'll be considered strange, an outcast.'

'But it's my life--'

'Yes, and I won't let you destroy it. The war has left us in ruins, and we can't afford to act as individuals. We're part of a community. We need each other, especially now. If you go against the accepted social norms, your life will be so much harder, so much more painful. No one will accept you. Please understand that my criticism is intended for your own good. Your family needs you. I need you. I'm trying to direct you down a better path, an easier path.'

'But so much has changed. The South isn't going to be the same as it was.'

'All the more reason why we need to hang on to our traditions and to each other. The future will be less frightening if some things can remain the same."

Many of us are sometimes like this mother, scared to do the right thing when it means we may face opposition. Many live in fear of change and would rather live in our comfort zone, even though it may be the wrong thing to do.

Here are a few questions that went through my head:

Do we worry to much about what others think of us? Do we worry to much about not being accepted? Have we become so politically correct that we have no integrity left to stand for what is right? Are we, like Josephine's mother, afraid? 


"Listen to Me, you who know righteousness, You people in whose heart is My law: Do not fear the reproach of men, Nor be afraid of their insults."       Isaiah 51:7


"But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you are blessed. "And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled."         1 Peter 3:14

"In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"      Psalm 56:11



Secondly, the novel brings up thought-provoking questions of suffering and pain. Why does God allow it? What is real happiness? Are we willing to trust God through our suffering?

Josephine has a conversation with a new friend, Alexander, about this. Alexander starts by saying:

"God takes no joy in our suffering.'

'Why does He allow it, then?'

'Sometimes it's His way of coaxing us to come back to Him. God used the war to draw me back to Him. People do more praying on the battlefield than they ever do in churches.'

'But if that's true, I would have to believe it was good that Daddy died, good that my family and I suffered during the war and lost nearly everything we had.'

'You can never know for certain what your life would have been like if the war hadn't happened. Suffering is part of living in a broken world. Your father might have died another way. Your family might have lost their fortune in some other kind of disaster. We're wrong to except our lives to be perfect on this side of heaven. And it's wrong for parents to shelter their children and make them believe that the most important thing is to be happy.'

'If life isn't supposed to be happy, then why live it?...'

'Because there's a big difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is external and can change when your circumstances change. If you believe that money will make you happy, for instance, and then you lose all your money, you'll be very unhappy. But joy is deep inside us and isn't dependent on circumstances. Even poor people can have joy.  Didn't you tell me that doing simple chores like working in the garden brought satisfaction?'

'Yes, and it gives my mother fits. She claims the work will ruin my hands, among other reasons.'

'...when we walk away from God, we walk away from any chance of joy. Joy doesn't come from circumstances, but from God."


"You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore."   Psalm 16:11

"The humble also shall increase their joy in the LORD, And the poor among men shall rejoice In the Holy One of Israel."   Isaiah 29:19


"Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation."                                                                                   Habakkuk 3:18

I highly recommend this book! It's one of those novels that has so much depth and really makes you think. It's also a beautiful story of redemption and love and how God makes all things new.

Note: I've left some parts of these conversations from the book out of the quotes because they may give away some of the story. I've put  ... where these parts are. I've also italicized the words of Josephine.

Buy it HERE at Amazon


November 14, 2012

Quote of the Week


"The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances." 
                        Elisabeth Elliott


November 12, 2012

Anne Boleyn:One short life that changed the English-speaking world

It's easy to judge someone by what others have said about them.

It's harder to take the time to get to know someone and see for ourselves who they really are or what they actually did.

This book does exactly that. It takes a hard long look at what Anne Boleyn did in her short life and examines the things people have said about her.

I'd never really thought of Anne in a positive light until I read Sandra Byrd's novel "To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn." It brought up a lot of questions and a curiosity of this English Queen's life.

At the back of Sandra's novel in her recommended reading, was this little book (130 pages) called "Anne Boleyn: one short life that changed the English speaking world" by Colin Hamer. I'm so glad I picked it up!

This book does a great job introducing us to the way of thinking, traditions, superstitions and mode of life in the middle ages. Helping us, in the 21st century, understand it.

EARLY LIFE

At the age of 12 Anne Boleyn was sent to France for her education. There she became close friends with Marguerite d'Angouleme (Duchess of Alencon, later Queen of Navarre) who was also the sister of the French king, Francis I. It is well know Marguerite was an evangelical believer.

She once wrote:

"I have found only one true and prefect remedy, which is reading the Holy Scriptures. In perusing them, my mind experiences its true and perfect joy; and from this pleasure of mind, proceeds the repose and health of the body...I take up the Psalms and sing them with my heart and pronounce with my tongue, as humbly as possible, the fine hymns with which the Holy inspired David and the sacred authors."

The book goes on to show her influence on Anne:

"...It seems clear that Anne came to know for herself that same joy Marguerite had, probably some time during her stay at the French court; she saw for herself that faith was placed in the heart by the Holy Spirit. For a thousand years Europe had been taught that the Christian religion was about submitting to a ritualistic system, a system that had no basis in the Bible. Now Anne realized that no amount of penance could atone for sin; forgiveness was entirely God's gift and the appropriate response for a believer was heartfelt joy and thankfulness. It was a life-changing experience for Anne -- as it is for all those who receive it. It was to sustain her through some heady, triumphant, and tragic times that, unknown to her, lay ahead."

THE CASE FOR ANNE'S VIRGINITY

It is also well know Anne was serious about keeping her virginity. While King Henry VIII continued to  pursue and pressure her, she resisted. The Vatican holds several letter from the King to Anne:

"There exist in the Vatican library in Rome seventeen letters that Henry wrote to Anne, probably secretly taken from Anne in her lifetime by a representative of the Church in an effort to prove that the real motivation for the King's 'divorce' from Catherine was a sexual relationship with Anne. But instead they show Anne resisting this most powerful of monarchs as he pleads with her in increasing desperate terms. Anne's replies have not survived; they were almost certainly destroyed on her death by those wishing to eradicate any memory of her."

We have almost nothing written from Anne's hand and no original or authentic paintings of her. This picture of her found in her daughter, Queen Elizabeth I, ring, is the only image of her which we can be sure is a close likeness.


WHY DID ANNE CONSENT TO BE COURTED BY A MARRIED MAN?

It is clear Anne did not want to be courted by Henry at first, but after 2 years of relentless pursuit she finally relented by sending a gift. It says here:

"...hear is the crucial question. Why did Anne send this gift and so signal to Henry that she would accept him as a suitor? He was a married man, and she had rightly resisted his advances for at least 2 years. What had changed?

There are several possible answers:

-Anne had simply given up the fight. she had been worn down by Henry and feared the consequences of resisting him anymore.

-She had become attracted to him. He was undoubtedly an impressive figure - tall, good looking (at least at this stage), and accomplished in many areas including the arts.

-She saw that an annulment was possible and that she could become Henry's legitimate wife and queen, a tremendously powerful position from which she could advance the reform agenda."

This is the big question, at least for me.

Anne was a very intelligent and well learned woman. She not only had read the Bible, she had studied it. How could she have thought it was ok to date a married man? The author tries to explain the Christian beliefs of the middle ages and how Scripture was misused.  Anne and Henry as well as the church had taken  certain verses and misinterpreted them. Because Henry had had no sons after 20 years of marriage to Catherine (his brother's wife) he truly believed this was a sign from God that He was displeased. The author states here:

"The 16th century mind thought that events displayed the specific will of God - a will that could be interpreted. In Henry's case this meant that if he had a son God was personally endorsing his kingship - and his marriage to Catherine, papal dispensation or not. But there was no son: God must be expressing his disapproval. 

All the original objections to the marriage had been based on two Bible verses, Leviticus 18:16 ('Do not have sexual relations with your brother's wife; that would dishonor your brother') and Leviticus 20:17 ('If a man marries his brother's wife, it is an act of impurity; he has dishonored his brother. They will be childless').

Henry and Catherine had no children, or at least no sons, which amounted  to the same thing to Henry, so here was a certain proof of God's displeasure. Some have argued that Henry VIII's subsequent scruples about his marriage to Catherine were based solely on his desire to have Anne Boleyn. But this does not give sufficient weight to the 16th-centurt mindset. The fact that a papal dispensation was required clearly shows the contemporary thinking that Henry and Catherine's marriage was indeed a forbidden relationship. Secular historians of today sometimes find it difficult to grasp the reality of these spiritual issues and can lose sight of this perspective - a perspective Henry VIII certainly had. Henry was not casual in his religion - he prided himself on being a theologian. He was presumably reassured by the papal dispensation - but then, when there was no son, surely God was punishing him as Leviticus 20 said he would? This lack of a son was a double blow to Henry: his kingdom was threatened, and his marriage condemned by God."

If Anne believed this as well it is a little more understandable to see her start a relationship with Henry. In their eyes he was never really married to Catherine. I guess we will never know exactly what they were thinking but this gives us a glimpse of what they may have.

WHY DID THEY CONSUMMATE THE RELATIONSHIP BEFORE MARRIAGE?

Another questionable act of Anne's is her consenting to consummate her relationship with Henry before they were officially married in a ceremony. The author explains here:

"If they were free to marry, why didn't Anne wait for a proper marriage ceremony - especially after waiting more than six years already? 

The state registration of marriages only began in England in 1857; until then marriages were controlled by the Church. Myles Coverdale (the Bible translator of the latter part of Henry VIII's reign) stated in 'The Christen State of Matrymonye' that it was possible to contract a marriage, often with a 'handfasting' ceremony (where the couple literally tied their hands together), and then have a separate wedding service performed in a church several weeks after the consummation of the relationship. The Church fully accepted this position."

So if Anne and Henry had participated in this 'handfasting' ceremony, they would have been considered married in the eyes of the Church before the ceremony.

ANNE'S SUPPORT AND WORK OF EVANGELISM

Once they were married Anne set out to promote her evangelical views. John Foxe (author of 'Foxes book of martyrs') said of Anne:

"What a zealous defender she was of Christ's gospel all the world doth know, and her acts do and will declare to the world's end."

Here are 10 points of action from Anne:

1. She was a catalyst in the break with Rome
2. Key figures (such as the Archbishop of Canterbury) could count on Anne's support
3. Anne pressured Henry to protect evangelicals at home and abroad
4. Anne influenced key Church appointments
5. Anne saw the Bible in English as a goal
6. Anne promoted the trade in Bibles and evangelical books
7. Anne was keen to see the monasteries reformed, not dissolved
8. Anne was concerned about education
9. Anne believe in a religion of practical action
10. Anne sought to influence Parliament on behalf of the poor

The author goes into more details with each of these points, but for the sake of keeping this post from becoming another book I'll leave it for you to read in Colin Hamer's. : )

DEATH AND CONCLUSION

Anne was queen for only 3 years before accusations of adultery and treason against the King where set against her. Many believe these were false and created for the benefit of those, namely Thomas Cromwell, who hated her and her views. The author says here:

"The exact sequence of events leading up to the first execution of a queen in english history, and what lay behind them, has been the subject of debate by many historians. But what is certain is that sometime early in 1536 Cromwell had it in his mind to move against Anne - and when he eventually did it was with ruthless, cold efficiency."

By May 1536 Anne was dead, Having been sentenced and beheaded.

There are still so many questions about Anne Boleyn, but I found this book made a lot of things clearer and gave me a better understanding of the mindset during the middle ages. I highly recommend it.

Buy it HERE on Amazon




November 8, 2012

The Reunion and a Remembrance Day Story

Wow! Another moving and beautifully written novel by Dan Walsh.

This is the story of Vietnam vet, Aaron Miller, who comes back from war broken and lost. Though he is a hero, there is no hero's welcome on his return.

He soon turns to drugs and alcohol to deal with the pain of war and in the process he loses everything.

After years of being lost and alone he finally finds the Lord and turns his life around.

Though the story doesn't go into this part of his life in detail, you can see how it shaped him and how the Lord works to restore him.

This is where the story begins.

Now in his sixties, he lives in a trailer park where he works as a handyman. He lives a simple life but often think of the family he lost so many years ago.

Then he gets an unlikely call that could change everything in his life.

This was definitely a 'keep your Kleenex box near'  book...and let's just say I needed a lot of Kleenex. : )

A Remembrance Day Story

This coming Sunday is Remembrance Day here in Canada. A day we remember and honor those who have sacrificed their lives to protect our freedoms. Canada didn't fight in the Vietnam War but we did fight in World War I and II along side our American and British friends. In honor of those who fought and fight in wars to protect our freedoms and the freedoms of others I thought I'd share this personal story.

This past summer my 20 year old daughter helped out as a councilor at a Christian childrens camp. There she met other kids her age who had come from all over the world to help counsel as well. One weekend she decided to bring a few of them home to show them around. Two were from Brazil, one from New Zealand, one from France and the other from Ontario. They were all wonderful kids with a zeal to serve the Lord.

My husband and I got to talking to the young man from France and he noticed some videos we had on our shelve about planes used in World War II. This led into a conversation about the war.

He then said something that struck both my husband and I. With great sincerity...he thanked us (Canada and the States) for coming to France and defending them. He said 'we really needed you and we thank you.' 

Coming from a 20 year old, this really touched us. We found it so moving to hear a young person express such respect and thankfulness to a generation of men who fought to liberate his country years before he was even born.

Here is a map showing where American, Canadian and British troops came onto the shores of France on D-Day June 6th 1944:


It's wonderful to hear people of all generations remember and honor those who dedicated and dedicate their lives to servicing and securing our freedoms.

On behave of our home, this Remembrance Day, we thank-you too.

Buy it HERE on Amazon




November 3, 2012

Whom Shall I Fear by Chris Tomlin

"The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?"             Psalm 27:1

Today I thought I'd share a couple videos with you, that have uplifted and strengthened my faith.  Hope they do for you too.

The first is Chris Tomlin talking about his new song 'Whom Shall I Fear"

I got chills listening to how this song came to be. It's such a great reminder of the battle we face and that the Lord is on our side. : )


The second video is the powerful song with the lyrics.



"Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 

Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 

and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 

above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 

praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints"              Ephesians 6:11-18

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