Monday, June 19, 2017

Book of the Month: The Basket of Flowers




Summary:

     Mary and her father James Rode live comfortably as gardeners in the service of the Count of Eichbourg in Germany. Adored by all, Mary is an especial favorite of the young Countess Amelia. However, when Amelia's mother discovers her diamond ring is missing, young Mary is accused of stealing it by the jealous maid Juliette. Hence, Mary and her father are banished from the kingdom.
Will they ever return home? What happened to the ring? Will Mary's faith remain intact through this fiery trial?


Pro's:

     I chose this book for the month of June because of the significant role of Mary's father, James, in cultivating and nurturing her faith in God. He's a wonderfully wise and caring father whose lessons in Biblical truths are found all throughout the book. The Basket of Flowers is truly a delightful story and I know readers will be captivated by it.


Con's:

     There's nothing negative to write about this book except that it's a very moving story. There were a few places where I teared up.


My rating for this book:

5 out of 5 stars (I loved it and would recommend it to anyone)






Tuesday, June 13, 2017

God Uses Flawed People



“God can’t use me. I’m not smart enough. I’m not strong enough. I’m not bold enough. I’m not _______ enough.”

     Have you ever thought this? I have. Fortunately, God doesn’t think like this. There is a remarkable theme found throughout Scripture of the Lord using the most unlikely individuals to accomplish some of the greatest tasks.

Peter was a rough fisherman with an unfortunate tendency to stick his foot in his mouth. When Jesus plainly told his disciples they would all forsake Him, Peter persistently declared he would never do so. Yet, in the hour of Christ’s greatest trial, Peter not only forsook his Lord, but denied Him as well.

Paul (formerly Saul) was one of the early church’s greatest persecutors. He hunted, captured, and tried hundreds of Christians. By Paul’s own admission, he was the chief of sinners.

Moses spoke directly with God out of a burning bush and was given the ability to perform several miracles. But when God commanded him to speak to Pharaoh, Moses insisted he was incapable and ineloquent.

Jonah was sent to preach to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, but fled in the opposite direction instead. After being spewed back in the right direction, he finally delivered God’s message… but became furious when God actually saved the Ninevites.

In the eyes of many, these men were unqualified and unable of ever achieving success. They were fearful, weak, uneducated, spiteful, ineloquent, disobedient – in a word: flawed. Why would God use flawed people to enact His will? Wouldn’t He want those who are skilled and knowledgeable? The answer is in 1 Corinthians 1:27-29.

“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in His presence.”

God uses the weakest vessels so that His power will be displayed most clearly and so that no one will be able to boast in themselves. That’s why God used Peter, an uneducated fisherman who fled after Christ was arrested, to boldly proclaim the gospel to thousands of antagonistic Jews. That’s why God saved Paul, a zealous Jew and a passionate persecutor of Christians, and caused him to become one of the early church’s greatest apostles. That’s why God called Moses, a murderer who fled Egypt and spent forty years hiding in Midian, to lead the entire nation of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. That’s why God commanded Jonah, who was decidedly pro-Israel and anti-Assyrian, to preach to the Ninevites, resulting in the salvation of the entire city. None would be able to effectively argue that they accomplished those feats through their own willpower and prowess. They triumphed only through the power of God.

So dear Christian, remember that God can use flawed people. The Lord doesn’t choose those whom the world deems potential stars. The world insists you must be intelligent, eloquent, strong, capable, and bold. However, God delights in using those who are weak, base, and despised. 

The world promotes perfect people. God uses flawed people.





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This is the third and final post in a series on Jonah. To view the previous posts, click below.
When God's Commands are Unpleasant
Loving Your Enemies

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Loving Your Enemies




     Have you ever met someone you just couldn’t stand? The moment they walk into the room, your smile fades, your heart sinks, and the day suddenly becomes gloomier. Sometimes, even the sound of their voice can make your stomach churn. Maybe it’s their personality. Maybe they have radically different views than you. Maybe you don’t even have a legitimate reason to dislike them, or, maybe you have a very good reason. Jonah had several reasons to hate the Ninevites. Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian nation and the Assyrians were infamous for two things: their skill in battle and their cruelty in dealing with defeated nations. Common were their barbaric practices of dismembering, skinning, or burning their captives alive. Often displayed atop the walls of Nineveh were the decapitated heads of conquered kings and princes. Besides all this, the Assyrians were Gentiles who worshipped numerous false idols, many of which required abominable sacrificial rites. Israel and Assyria were diametrically opposed. Thus, we can understand why Jonah was so averse to delivering God’s message to them.

“What? Preach to Nineveh, to those Assyrians?! No! Let them die in their sins. Why should God save them?”

Yet, God had commanded him to preach to the Ninevites. The most loving thing we can do for anyone is to tell of their impending everlasting damnation and the salvation that can be found in Christ. That is love, and that was what the Lord asked Jonah to do: love his enemies.

But why? Why would God ask him to do that? After all, the Assyrians were Gentiles; God hadn’t promised to save them.

Jonah himself answers that question in Jonah 4:2b, “…for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.”

Because God is merciful. That’s the only reason any of us are saved. If God was gracious enough to save the murderous Ninevites, surely we can lovingly extend the message of salvation to even the worst of our enemies. 


"But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you."
- Matthew 5:44






Fun fact: I'm part Assyrian. Praise God his salvation extends to everyone, even to Assyrians!





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This is the second post in a series on Jonah. To view the first post, click below.
When God's Commands are Unpleasant 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

When God's Commands are Unpleasant




“I can’t do that.”
“But God told you…”
“Maybe I heard wrong. God would never ask me to do that.”

Perhaps these thought swirled in Jonah’s mind as he hailed a ship headed for Tarshish. The Lord had asked him to do the one thing he abhorred. The one assignment he refused to undertake. The one task he would not do.

Preach to the Ninevites.

Those wicked, violent, rich Gentiles. No. He would not do it. He would go in the complete opposite direction: to Tarshish. But as we all know, Jonah’s plans were abruptly reversed by a mighty storm and a great fish with an appetite for stubborn prophets. After several miserable nights in the fish’s belly, wrestling with God, Jonah eventually did what the Lord commanded him to do: preach to those wicked Gentiles.

How often we read this story and chuckle at Jonah’s foolishness in trying to run from the Lord. “What was he thinking?” we ask pretentiously. But have we ever run from the Lord’s will? Has the Lord ever commanded you to do the very thing you loathed doing? How did you respond? The Lord made such a request of me, and my reaction was not unlike Jonah’s.

It was a late Saturday morning and as usual we were all gathered around the breakfast table discussing the previous evening’s Bible study, held every Friday in our home. My sister Victoria, who teaches the young children, was lamenting her inability to prepare lessons every week.
“I’ve just been so busy with school, especially since end of the year finals are coming up, that I simply don’t have time to properly prepare a lesson.” She dejectedly pushed the fruit around on her plate.
Mom was quiet. Dad looked thoughtful. Turning suddenly to me, he asked, “How full is your schedule Gloria?”
Immediately sensing where he was going, I desperately tried to come up with an excuse.
“Look, I know I’m taking a Gap year, but that doesn’t mean I’m not busy too. I’ve got a book project I’m working on, an essay to write for a contest, weekly submissions for a study book some fellow Bible Bee friends and I are working on… not to mention maintaining my blog! You can’t pile Friday night kid’s lessons on top of all that.”
Apparently, my parents believed they could. And so the dreaded verdict was pronounced.
“Starting next week, you’ll be teaching the kids until your sister is done with school for this year.”
The sun seemed to disappear. Dark clouds loomed in the sky. I wanted to curl up in a corner and cry.
There are few things in this world that I hate. But teaching is one of them. Unlike my wonderfully patient sister, I have little tolerance for children, especially young ones. The thought of sitting down and teaching them for an hour fills me with anxiety and dread.
Seeing the distressed look on my face, my father tried to assure me, “It won’t be that bad. Besides, Victoria needs a break and you could use the practice.”
But I barely heard him. My mind was in turmoil.
“No!” I cried inwardly. “God, no, I can’t do this. Please no!”
All throughout the following week, I pushed off preparation for Friday, hoping that miraculously my parents would change their minds or my sister would suddenly decide to prepare the lesson herself. Neither of those happened. My first Friday night kid’s lesson went terribly. I was completely unprepared. Immeasurable was my relief when the study was finally over.

During subsequent weeks, I wrestled with God over the issue.
“Why God?” I cried every Friday morning. “You know how much I hate teaching. Why would you make me do this?”
The Lord works in mysterious and sometimes ironic ways. The lessons I was teaching the kids were based off the book of Jonah. As I began studying Jonah in preparation for Friday evening, the similarity between Jonah’s situation and mine were striking. As I told the kids about how foolish Jonah was in attempting to run from what God wanted him to do, I felt rather hypocritical. I too was trying to run from the Lord’s will. Slowly, the Lord began revealing to me the foolishness of my own attempts to escape the task He’d given me. Like Jonah, I realized you can’t run from God. His will is inescapable. Sometimes, His will requires us to do something distasteful, to “preach to Nineveh.”

Jonah’s Nineveh consisted of violent Gentiles.

My Nineveh consisted of squirmy kids.

The Lord may be calling you to a different kind of Nineveh. 

What will your response be to the Lord’s calling? Will you humbly obey, despite the urgings of your flesh to do otherwise? Or will you attempt to run and risk God’s rod of reproof?


Will you preach to Nineveh?




~




Starting this week, I'll be doing a blog study series through the book of Jonah. Be sure to look for the next post!




Monday, May 15, 2017

Book of the Month: Mothers of Famous Men




Summary:

     Why do some children grow to be highly respected and godly individuals while others amount to nothing more than wayward miscreants? It can arguably be stated that it is because of the loving care, or lack thereof, provided by their mothers. This book is a collection of short biographies focusing on the Christian character of the mothers of famous men. The author states in the introduction, "My purpose in writing this book was not to extol a few mothers but to pay tribute to the countless number of unselfish, devoted mothers everywhere."


Pro's:

     We often hear of people like John Wesley, Augustine, Abraham Lincoln, and George Washington but rarely is mention made of their mothers, the women who molded them into the men they became. I enjoyed reading the book and, as it's only 154 pages, it didn't take me long to complete. I also really liked the collection of quotes from various notable people on the influence of their mothers. My favorite, and perhaps the most famous, is below.




Con's: 

     No negative comments on this book! It's an excellent read.


My rating for this book:

5 out of 5 stars (I loved it and would recommend it to anyone)