Timeout by Bridget A. Thomas

My husband likes watching fishing programs on television. He was recently watching a tournament where one of the fisherman had to take a two minute penalty. If the fish touches “anything inside the boat other than the angler’s hand,” he gets penalized. He has to wait two minutes before he is allowed to proceed. In those two minutes, “the angler can do absolutely nothing except talk to the camera.” [1]

When this happened recently on a show we were watching, my mind wandered to children and how we make them sit in timeout. Or for those of us prior to the “timeout” era, we had to stand in the corner, which was a similar concept.

This led me to thinking about how we all need a timeout. Not because we broke the rules necessarily, but because we are all running through our lives at top speed. At least I feel I am on most days. I feel frazzled half the time, trying to multitask and get more accomplished. I have eight books I started reading and haven’t finished. I feel like every moment needs to be productive. When I have downtime, I wonder what I should be doing. It’s hard to rest because I have trained myself to keep going, like the energizer bunny we used to see on commercials.

Can you relate? I know many of us have been overwhelmed and stressed out lately. We feel we need to keep up or we will fall behind. Our devices certainly don’t help because they are constantly alerting us when we need to check our emails, messages, comments, and a million other things. But it’s not just our devices that get us in trouble. People in general have a hard time slowing down. And we fill our lives with chores, shopping, food, and anything else that we think might satisfy us.

In many cases, we are trying to fill a void that only God can fill.

Many of us, myself included, need a timeout. We need to take a timeout from running through our day. We need to take a timeout from whatever it is that we keep reaching for, instead of God. We need to learn to move more slowly.

When we first try to slow down, it feels painful. When we are addicted to movement, stopping makes us want to hyperventilate. But it is possible. And it’s vital. Our bodies cannot keep going at this fast pace forever.

Here are a few things we might do to help our bodies slow down:


1 – Don’t neglect your quiet time with God. Spend time with Him first thing in the morning, if possible. This will help set a tone for your day.


2 – Pray throughout the day. My friend sent me a meme via text recently that said, “Don’t forget to pray today, because God didn’t forget to wake you up this morning.” I appreciated that reminder. And I have found that when I pray throughout my day, it helps me to stay grounded and keep my mind focused on the Lord, not on my to-do list.


3 – Get outside. Even if it’s just a few minutes, try to get some time outdoors. This always helps me feel closer to the Lord. Either I take time to say a prayer, or just soak up the vitamin D.


4 – Limit noise. This isn’t something we always have control over. However, at times, we can try to limit the noise that surrounds us. For example, when I drive to the grocery store, many times I won’t turn on the radio. Rather, I enjoy bathing in the silence.


5 – Note that sometimes I do put on praise music though. Especially if I am worried about something. This gives my mood a boost. If you are stressed about a particular concern, try singing God’s praises. Praising Him miraculously shifts our perspective.


6 – Exercise. I am trying to carve more movement into my day, whether it is walking or a Pilates video. Personally, I am trying to pick activities that are peaceful and enjoyable, taking some time to focus on the body and not my worries. Find something you enjoy and something you will stick with.


7 – Breathe. Take moments throughout the day to stop and breathe.

Slowing down will take discipline. If you are like me and constantly on the go, then this simply means being intentional with your time and energy. As a result, we will find that we have better mental clarity and more peace in our hearts.

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. – Psalm 62:5

Thank you for reading!

Photo by Morgane Le Breton on unsplash.com

1 – https://majorleaguefishing.com/select-events/how-anglers-end-up-in-a-timeout/

Posted in Bridget A. Thomas | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

No Other Gods: Baal by James R. Coggins

Third in a series

In the Ten Commandments, God (who identified Himself as Yahweh or “I am”) commanded the Israelites not to worship any gods but Him. Yet the Israelites were tempted to worship the gods of the peoples around them.

By far, the most common false god worshipped by Israel and its neighbors was Baal, this worship beginning even before the Israelites entered the Promised Land (Numbers 25:1-2). In fact, there were many Baals, often linked to a certain locality. There are many people and places named after Baal. “Baal” means master, possessor (of a certain location or a certain group of people), and husband. Sometimes Israelites used “Baal” to refer to Yahweh since He was their master and husband, which created much confusion. Baal was sometimes called Baal-zebul (Lord of the high place), which faithful Israelites mocked as Baal-zebub (Lord of the flies, 2 Kings 1:2). By New Testament times, Baal-zebul was considered to be “Lord of the devils” or Satan (Matthew 12:22-29).

Because there were so many Baals, it is difficult to definitively identify the nature of Baal. Perhaps the clearest picture we have is of Baal Melqart, the god of Tyre, whose worship Jezebel brought to Israel when she married King Ahab, subsequently the most evil of Israel’s kings (1 Kings 16:29-33). Baal was often considered a fertility god, the “husband” of Asherah, whose joint worship included sexual practices, often with temple prostitutes. Baal would impregnate Asherah (the earth) with rain and thus produce good crops, a vital need in an agricultural society. This is the significance of the prophet Elijah’s contest with the hundreds of prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18). Those prophets used a variety of rituals and techniques in a vain attempt to induce Baal to send rain to end a three-year drought (1 kings 18:25-29). They failed, while Elijah’s simple prayer to Yahweh produced abundant rain. Yahweh defeated Baal on a mountaintop near Baal’s home territory and also defeated Baal at what Baal’s prophets claimed was his unique power. It is interesting that Elijah mocked Baal as possibly being away or asleep or indisposed (1 kings 18:27). As a humanoid god, Baal was subject to human limitations; unlike Yahweh, he was not omnipresent and was part of nature rather than its creator and controller.

A clearer picture of Baal emerges in Jezebel’s actions in 1 Kings 21. Ahab wanted a vineyard belonging to a man named Naboth, but Naboth refused to sell it. Ahab was despondent, but Jezebel took action. She set up a conspiracy to have some men lie and say that Naboth had cursed God and the king. Naboth was stoned to death, and Ahab took the vineyard. As a worshiper of Baal, Jezebel saw nothing wrong with lies, theft, and murder. She had no interest in truth, having already rejected the evidence from the Mount Carmel contest showing that Yahweh is the true God. Baal was a god of power and violence (perhaps akin to the Roman war god Mars). He was there to help people get what they wanted, a god of the selfish and greedy. Worship of Baal taught the concept that “might makes right,” overriding truth, morality, and justice.

The worship of Baal has faded into history. Yet many people today follow a philosophy of selfishness and greed, discarding truth, justice, and morality in pursuit of their own selfish desires. Career criminals are a prime example, but many other people share the same attitude while avoiding the risks involved in overt criminal behavior. Greed and selfishness are endemic in our society. 

Posted in James R. Coggins | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Worship Who? by Nancy J. Farrier

Photo: Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

I recently visited a church and the pastor said something that gave me pause. What caught my attention wasn’t the whole of his message, but a small part. He said we are made to worship someone. Think about that. Made to worship someone.

He did expound for a short time on how we worship people and that set off my own thoughts. Thoughts of the way our society starts worshipping others from an early age. We are encouraged to do this in various aspects of our society.

We worship celebrities. We watch them on various medias, follow their lives in social media and print. News about a celebrity’s marriage or divorce or a misstep they’ve taken are gossiped about constantly.

We worship sports figures, going far beyond simply enjoying a game they may be playing. We learn about them, seek out sightings of them. Hound them with our attention. Try to get photos or name drop if we actually get to meet them.

Since I heard that message, I’ve come to realize one of the most dangerous people to worship is self. That’s right. Worshipping oneself is huge and encouraged. We are constantly reminded of what we should indulge in and how it’s our right to do so. We lift ourselves onto a pedestal and feel important for being there.

Our worship should be reserved for God and only God. The Israelites were cautioned about worshipping any other gods. “…(for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God)…” Exodus 34:14. (ESV)

We must be careful to keep our worship focused on God and not self or those around us. While we can enjoy a television show or a baseball game, we should not put those involved in those professions on a pedestal. They are simply people, just as we are only human and are called to be humble, not lifted up.

How do we do this in a society so consumed with the worship of self and others? By keeping our eyes on God. By making a concerted effort to remember the One who is worthy of our praise.

Yes, we are made to worship. We are created in His image and have the need deep within us to praise Him and worship Him. Let’s keep that in the forefront of our minds so that we aren’t tempted to lift up any others.

“Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.” Psalm 29:1,2 (ESV)

Posted in Nancy J. Farrier | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A Nose by Any Other Name Would Smell as Sweet by James R. Coggins

Do you ever have one of those nights when your body craves sleep but your mind won’t cooperate? The solution is to distract your mind. Don’t let it wander toward topics that are troubling or stimulating.

As a writer, I can start to map out in my mind my next blog or the next chapter in a novel. The writing process is so boring and exhausting that sleep soon follows. Writers will do anything, even sleep, to avoid writing.

If you are not a writer, you can try playing a game that some of my writer friends play. To play the game, think of the title of a book or movie, and then come up with a new title by adding a single letter. English is a funny language. Adding a single letter to a title can suggest a totally different story.

For example, here are some titles with a single letter added:

The Beagle Has Landed

Star Warts

Start Wars

The Least of the Mohicans

A Christmas Carl

The Princess Bridge

A Farewell to Farms

Bratman

Alternatively, you can come up with a new story by dropping a letter from a title:

Ale of Two Cities

The Prince and the Paper

The Fat and The Furious

Seeping Beauty

Brave New Word

One with the Wind

Now White

Far from the Adding Crowd

Of Ice and Men

Animal Arm

Oliver Twit

Leak House

The War of the Words

All Quit on the Western Front

Or you can change a title by changing one letter to a different letter:

The Old Map and the Sea

The Amazing Face

The Lord of the Sings

The Three Little Figs

Beauty and the Feast

The Son Also Rises

Little Horse on the Prairie

War and Peach

Jars

Back to the Suture

Be warned. If you come up with a good one, by all means resist the temptation to get up and write it down. That would defeat the purpose.

Posted in James R. Coggins | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Hold Them Close

My husband said something to me recently that I’ve been giving a lot of thought to due to seeing this played out in our lives with people we know.

He said that sometimes God puts people in our lives for a moment, some for a season, and some for a lifetime.

Proverbs 27:9 says. . .the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel.

Throughout my life I have found this to be true. When I look back, I see people who were in my life for only a moment. At the time I thought we would be part of each other’s lives forever, but as things in our lives changed, our relationship shifted, and we went down different paths. They were there but for a moment.

I’ve had friends that are there for a season. It could be a few months or perhaps years. They get you through some hard times and are sent to you from God to help you along the way.   

1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.  

And then there are the friends that have been there for me for a lifetime.

Those are treasures from God. They walk beside us through each mountain and valley we must walk through, and they lift us up and enrich our lives along the way.

Ecclesiastes 4:10 says, If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.

Sometimes, we are the friends that are put into someone’s life to help them for a moment, or a season, maybe even a lifetime.

No matter where you are in your relationship with a friend, hold them close and cherish them and their friendship because they are all true gifts from God, no matter the season or the reason.      

All the best…

Mary Alford

www.maryalford.net

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Take Every Thought Captive by Bridget A. Thomas

A few weeks ago, a fellow blogger commented on my post. She mentioned to me that she had tried to comment already, but it didn’t go through. This prompted me to check the spam folder, where I found her original comment. Also in the spam folder were thirty-five other comments, which really were spam. One by one, I went through each comment and deleted the bad ones. I approved the one comment that was genuine.

This made me think about our thoughts. We have thousands of thoughts run through our heads each day. Yet not all of those thoughts are good thoughts and worthy of retaining. Some are negative, some are complaints, and some are lies. Yet we tend to allow them to stay. Many of us aren’t prompt to delete the bad thoughts that run through our minds.

Paul told us to take every thought captive. “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:5

This can be difficult to do in the beginning because we have let our minds run rampant for too long. But once we make an effort and pay attention to our thoughts, we can see progress.

In Luke 4:1-13 we read the story where Jesus was tempted by the enemy. One important point about this story is that for every lie that the enemy threw at Him, Jesus came back with Scripture and truth. This is a great example for us as well. If we are diligent to stay in the Word of God and memorize Bible verses, we can fill our hearts with truth.

We also have to be careful about what we watch, what we listen to, and what we surround ourselves with. We have to filter out anything that is not healthy. When we are intentional about filling ourselves with good things of the Lord, we will see the negativity dwindle in our minds.

But if we are not careful and we allow pessimism to remain, then the things that are on the inside of us will come out in the words we speak. Jesus put it this way, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Luke 6:45)

This is a great reminder to fill ourselves with truth, the Word of God, hopeful thoughts, and strong faith. Then when the enemy tries to throw lies at us, we will have the tools to replace the lies with truth.

Joshua 1:8 says, “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

We too can keep the Word always on our lips, and meditate on it day and night. When we fill ourselves with God’s truth, we will leave little room for the lies and the negative thoughts. We will be able to take every thought captive. And as a result, we will have more peace in our minds and hearts.

Thank you for reading!

Photo by Aaron Burden on unsplash.com

© 2022 Bridget A. Thomas

Posted in Bridget A. Thomas | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Bug Zapper by Julie Arduini

It wasn’t too many days after our son’s wedding that the “kids” visited and remarked they saw some unwanted insects in what we call the Florida room. We set traps and in a few days with different strategies were able to rid ourselves of 90% of the varmints.

My husband remembered when we lived in Upstate NY and mosquitos were an issue, we had a bug zapper. Apparently that survived our moves and my husband even knew where it was located. He hooked it up and the remaining guests are not bothering us anymore.

Hearing the zapper go off reminds me of, well, me.

Not that I want to be an annoying insect taking residence where I don’t belong, but the zapper reminds me of temptation and my reaction to it.

Temptation is like that bright light in the zapper. Oh, it’s pretty. It sure is inviting. I’ve seen it play out when married couples change their boundaries and suddenly an affair is in the works. The initial look is alluring, especially if you’re frustrated at home.

But that light doesn’t tell the insects that it’s so much more than pretty. It’s a touch of death.

Just like sin.

What people forget about sin is the long term consequences. The defeated one only wants you to consider the fun part. The high you get from sneaking around, cheating on taxes, gossiping about someone who mistreated you. He conveniently doesn’t tell you the shame and guilt that follows. If you’re caught, a family will implode and your reputation is ruined. You might lose a ministry. Depending on your choice, you could land in jail.

—Julie Arduini

Zap, zap, zappity-zap.

I’m sure there are insects who see that bright light and check it out, but for some reason, don’t engage. For them, they have another day to fly free, and I bet that feels great. If you’ve said no to sin, you know how good that feels knowing you made the right choice. The peace that passes all understanding.

God gives us the strength to avoid the zapper. I’d love to write that I listen to the Holy Spirit and avoid that “ah, ah, ah, Julie, you really don’t want to do that” nudge, but I have at times flown straight to the zapper and ignored the warnings. A lie, a gossip session, a gluttony partake, that’s off the top of my head. Remember, sin is sin to God. Someone’s murder is my gossip, and we all fly into the zapper.

What’s amazing and separates us from pesky insects is the hope Christ gives. He died for our sinful choices and if we invite Him into our lives, we’ll never have to see the death sizzle from the zapper. Sure, we’re human and consequences remain. But I know where my eternity destination address is. It doesn’t give me a license to sin, but it gives me anticipation. I long to be where Jesus lives, and I look forward to learning all about those temptations and heaven’s insight into them.

For now, I plan to vacuum the Florida room and think about the bug zapper and my choices.

How about you?

Posted in Julie Arduini | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Molek by James R. Coggins

Second in a series

In the Ten Commandments, God (who identified Himself as Yahweh or “I am”) commanded the Israelites not to worship any gods but Him. Yet the Israelites were tempted to worship the gods of the peoples around them.

Molek (or Molech or Moloch) was the god of the Ammonites. The name might be related to the word for king. A key component of this religion was child sacrifice.

In their wilderness wanderings, God warned the people of Israel not to worship Molech, even before they had had much contact with the Ammonites: “Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molek, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 18:21 NIV); “Say to the Israelites: ‘Any Israelite or any foreigner residing in Israel who sacrifices any of his children to Molek is to be put to death. The members of the community are to stone him. I myself will set my face against him and will cut him off from his people; for by sacrificing his children to Molek, he has defiled my sanctuary and profaned my holy name. If the members of the community close their eyes when that man sacrifices one of his children to Molek and if they fail to put him to death, I myself will set my face against him and his family and will cut them off from their people together with all who follow him in prostituting themselves to Molek” (Leviticus 20:2-5). This might seem harsh, but capital punishment is an appropriate punishment for someone who murders innocent children.

Israel did not heed these warnings. 1 Kings 11:4-7 records: “As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites.…On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites.” God’s prophet denounced this sin in 1 Kings 11:33. These places of false worship apparently remained for three centuries, until King Josiah “desecrated Topheth, which was in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, so no one could use it to sacrifice their son or daughter in the fire to Molek.…The king also desecrated the high places that were east of Jerusalem on the south of the Hill of Corruption—the ones Solomon king of Israel had built for Ashtoreth the vile goddess of the Sidonians, for Chemosh the vile god of Moab, and for Molek the detestable god of the people of Ammon” (2 Kings 23:10,13). This did not end the idolatry. God’s prophets continued to condemn the worship of Molek: “They built high places for Baal in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molek, though I never commanded—nor did it enter my mind—that they should do such a detestable thing and so make Judah sin” (Jeremiah 32:35 and also Isaiah 57:9 and Zephaniah 1:5). In the New Testament, Stephen summed up this sad history, quoting the Septuagint translation of Amos 5:26-27: “You have taken up the tabernacle of Molek and the star of your god Rephan, the idols you made to worship. Therefore I will send you into exile beyond Babylon” (Acts 7:43).

2 Kings 3:26-27 records an enigmatic story: “When the king of Moab saw that the battle had gone against him, he…took his firstborn son, who was to succeed him as king, and offered him as a sacrifice on the city wall. The fury against Israel was great; they withdrew and returned to their own land.” The Moabites and Ammonites were both descended from Lot and might have shared a common false religion that called for child sacrifice. Yet the meaning of this passage is not clear. Did the sacrifice of the king’s son anger his people so much that they were able to fight back against Israel? Did the sacrifice unleash demonic hordes against Israel? Did the Israelites themselves fear Molek so much that they lost heart? We do not know. What we do know is that Jeremiah 49:1-5 prophesied that the Ammonites themselves would be punished and sent in exile for their sins and their worship of Molek.

What does this have to do with us? The worship of Molek has faded into history. But the ideas behind the worship of Molek have persisted. Worshippers of Molek did not necessarily sacrifice children because they enjoyed hurting children but because they were willing to trade their children for something they valued more—victory, success, prosperity. People in our age are still willing to sacrifice children for their own benefit. The most obvious example is abortion. Babies are aborted because they are inconvenient or expensive or they get in the way of another relationship. Other examples are child killing, child abuse, child sexual abuse, and any practice in which adults put their own power and pleasure and prosperity ahead of the well-being of children. God declares that He not only does not command or condone such detestable practices but also that they “never entered His mind.” They are unthinkable evils.

Posted in James R. Coggins | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Mini Vacation by Tara Randel

Last time I posted, I told you about the mystery writers conference a friend and I attended. While we had a wonderful time, our long weekend away wasn’t over.

We weren’t far from Palm Beach. My friend had wanted us to visit there together, so she made reservations at a lovely hotel called The Chesterfield.

The beautiful lobby.
Old school.

In the short time we had, we visited the Flagler Museum, walked up and down Worth Avenue and made it to the beach at sunset. It was a typically sweltering Florida day, so we made sure to carry plenty of bottled water. It was only two days, but we packed a lot into our visit.

When you can’t take a long vacation, a mini vacay always refreshes the spirit and makes you ready to approach the next obstacle in life. Sometimes, all it takes is a change of scenery to change your mindset. For me, the weekend was some much needed downtime, which, if you have a busy life, you understand how important that is.

It also made me think about priorities. While we didn’t have to take a side trip, the two days were what I needed to gain fresh perspective and get back to writing. Perhaps you’ve had the opportunity to spend a few days away from home, but you’re wavering. The big question is, do we take that trip? Or visit with family? Or go to the beach or a park just to get some fresh air or maybe read a book? Each one of us has to judge how we manage our time and what we put place value on.

For me, I’ve been so busy with deadlines, this little trip reminded me that there is more to life than just sitting at the keyboard. Getting out, talking to people, seeing new sights; it makes a difference on how we view life.

I have to say, instead of rushing home, I’m glad my friend suggested we spend a few more days away after the conference. Now, looking ahead to the next vacation…

Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA Today bestselling author. Family values, a bit of mystery and of course, love and romance, are her favorite themes, because she believes love is the greatest gift of all. Look for her next Harlequin Heartwarming romance, HIS SMALL TOWN DREAM, available AUGUST 23, 2022. For more information about her books, visit Tara at www.tararandel.com. Like her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/TaraRandelBooks. Sign up for Tara’s Newsletter.

Posted in Tara Randel | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Intelligent and Christian by James R. Coggins 

Last November, John G. Stackhouse, Jr. posted a blog titled “Why Mere Christianity Should Have Bombed.” 

The title is deliberately provocative. Mere Christianity by British scholar C.S. Lewis was published over 60 years ago and has been one of the most successful apologetics books ever written. Yet, in his blog, Stackhouse outlined several reasons why the book should have failed miserably. 

Stackhouse then went on to explain why the book did succeed. Central to his argument is the idea that “Mere Christianity gives you permission to be both intelligent and Christian.” Stackhouse pointed out that Lewis was a skilled communicator who could proclaim and explain Christianity in clear terms that communicated to both intellectuals and average people. Sadly, “intelligent” and “Christian” are not words that are often put together in our culture. 

Stackhouse knows what he is talking about. He is a respected Canadian scholar and an evangelical theologian. “Intelligent Christian” are words that could be applied Stackhouse as well as Lewis. I have found his writing to be clear and thoughtful. His most recent book, Evangelicalism: A Short Introduction, is a case in point. It should be widely read, not only by Canadians, but especially by Americans, who would benefit from being able to look at evangelicalism from a perspective broader than the American one. 

Two statements in Stackhouse’s blog stood out for me: 

“The market is now flooded with books by Ph.D.s who cannot write an interesting and intelligible paragraph, and by wannabe pop apologists who just aren’t very smart.” 

“I hope that reflection on Mere Christianity…will inspire some of us to write blogs, op-eds, and books, and perhaps also create podcasts and videos that communicate with publics outside Christian subcultures.” 

The words resonated with me partly because they reminded me of some other words spoken to me over forty years ago. Those words inspired me to study at Regent College, an excellent theological college in Vancouver where Stackhouse later taught for a time. Unemployed, I had been sent to a vocational counselor in an experimental program I was later told did not exist. After giving me a battery of aptitude and interest tests, the counselor concluded that I should return to school and become a theologian because “the world needs people who can explain Christianity to intellectuals.” The counselor was a well-educated and intelligent man who was puzzled by his wife’s recent conversion to Christianity. After studying at Regent College and then earning a degree in church history, I embarked on a career of writing, editing, and occasionally teaching.  

Some years later, when I had become established as a writer and editor with a Christian magazine, I used to regularly take a transit bus to work. Over time, I got to know some of the drivers, and we would occasionally talk as the bus rolled along. One of the drivers, who was not a Christian, discovered that I was a writer, and she asked if she could read something I had written. I realized I had nothing to offer her. All of my writings were written for Christians and probably only understandable by Christians. I later wrote my first murder mystery and dedicated it to her. The book does not contain an explicit presentation of the Christian gospel, but perhaps a subtle one. Its hero is a Christian. My intent was to give readers the experience of living next door to a Christian, whose life would cause them to become curious and wonder about something greater than they knew.  

I do not consider that I have perfectly or even adequately done what was asked of me. But Lewis’s words and Stackhouse’s have continued to haunt and call and challenge me. I pray that they will also call others—to do in our generation what Lewis did in his. 

Posted in James R. Coggins | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Beauty of Flawed

We I was just a little girl, I thought the birthmark I had on my throat was a stain and I did my best to get rid of it, until my mother explained what it was and that my beauty mark was part of me. No amount of wiping would make it disappear.

Through the years, I made peace with “my flaw”, as I thought of it. Now, I rarely ever think about it. Sometimes, I’ll catch someone staring and I’ll wonder what they’re looking at until I remember.

Ecclesiastes 7:20, says Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.

Since sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, we are all flawed beings. We live in a flawed world that is slowly fading away.

1 John 2: 17, says, And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.

Thankfully, God knows all about our flaws and He loves us anyway. He knew that we could never be “good enough” to save ourselves, and so He created the perfect plan of salvation. One so simple that all we have to do is accept His gift of salvation, believe Jesus died for our sins, and we will be saved. Our flaws are wiped away in God’s site.

Psalm 103: 12 says, As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.   

Isn’t that amazing. No matter how flawed we are, we are washed clean by the precious blood of Jesus!

Hallelujah! He turns our flaws into something beautiful.

Romans 8:28 – And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

All the best…

Mary Alford

www.maryalford.net

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Good Week by Nancy J. Farrier

Do you ever have one of those days/weeks/months where everything seems to go wrong? You look at the calendar wrong and miss an appointment? Or you miss a birthday or other important date? You simply forget something you meant to remember?

Last week that happened to me. I checked my calendar and thought I was supposed to post on August 1st for my Christians Read post. Imagine my embarrassment when, after my post was published, I realized my real date to post was today, August 8th. That was my week.

I decided to post something today that went right in a week that had some discouragements. For the first time ever, I became a great-grandmother. My great-grandson was born on Thursday, August 4th. No matter what else went awry during the week, his birth made up for those mishaps.

He’s so sweet. A reminder of new life. A gift from God to show my how perfectly God knits us together and cares for us.

On Friday, I had the privilege of holding him and praying for him. Praying that he would grow to be a man of God. That he would always seek God and live a life according to God’s principles. It doesn’t get much better than that.

So if your having one of those days/weeks/months when minor or major disasters seem to pop up everywhere, take a minute and look for the bit of hope God has sent you way. Look for His encouragement. Be blessed.

Posted in Nancy J. Farrier, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Remind Yourself of Truth by Bridget A. Thomas

These past couple of years our world has given us a lot to fret about. Just turn on the news for five minutes and discouragement will come knocking. It can be so difficult to put one foot in front of the other some days. We can easily find ourselves living in fear.

But we don’t have to stay there and we don’t have to allow anxiety to take over. We can choose to cling tightly to God and find comfort in Him. Here are some truths about the Lord that bring me comfort when I am tempted to worry.

God is near. What comfort it brings to know that God is near! We are not alone. He is always with us.

  • But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds. – Psalm 73:28 NIV
  • Come near to God and he will come near to you. – James 4:8a NIV
  • The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. – Psalm 145:18 NIV
  • The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. – Psalm 34:18 NIV

God is faithful. God is steadfast and true. Always. This brings us peace, when we know how trustworthy our Father is.

  • Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. – Psalm 36:5 NIV
  • But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. – Psalm 86:15 NIV
  • If we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself. – 2 Timothy 2:13 ESV

God is love. When we remember how much our Savior loves us, our hearts overflow. And we know that His love also means that He is always looking out for us and has our best interest in mind.

  • We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. – 1 John 4:16 NLT
  • Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. – Psalm 136:1 NLT
  • And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love… Nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38,39 NLT

These facts might be things we already know. And these Bible verses might be ones we are familiar with. But sometimes we forget and we have to remind ourselves of the truth. Sometimes it can be so easy to fall into despair. But might I remind you of something else – despair, discouragement, worry, anxiety, and fear are the places where the devil wants us to be. So that is all the more reason why we need to fight against it, by clinging to the truth found in the Word.

Let’s take time this week to pick a comforting Bible verse and memorize it. We can tuck the truth into our hearts to help fight off despair. And if you want an extra boost of positivity, read through the Psalms and underline every word that speaks to you. That is something I did in 2020 when we were in the midst of the pandemic. I read five Psalms a day and it truly changed everything for me. I now continue to go back to the Psalms for comfort. If you have any tips on how you battle the negativity in our world, please share in the comments. Or if you have a special Bible verse that brings you comfort, please share that as well.

Thank you for reading!

Photo by Timothy Eberly on unsplash.com

© 2022 Bridget A. Thomas

Posted in Bridget A. Thomas | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Wedding Reflections by Julie Arduini

Well, our last big event of the summer is behind us. Our son Brian married Brianna over the weekend. As I watched him on the platform, smiling as they were announced Mr. and Mrs., greeting everyone, I thought about the many nights I cried myself to sleep not understanding my infertility.

I learned I had PCOS when I had met Tom and was pretty sure he was the one. Kids really weren’t on my radar until I learned I would most likely not be able to conceive. I had a doctor full of faith who told me not to listen to his diagnosis. He encouraged me to pray and ask others to do the same.

Not only did I pray that I could have children, I prayed for their spouses. I prayed they would be in a life-long, active relationship with Jesus where the Bible was read and prayer was everyday. That they would be good stewards and take care of each other. It was pretty amazing to watch Brianna say her vows and realize I was watching a 27 year old prayer unfold before me.

I also thought about both sets of Brian’s grandparents as the photographer captured a picture of the Arduini family and my sister and nephew. They would be so excited to see their children doing well and still meeting as often as possible. Tom comes from a family of six, and it is me and my sister now. They would be so proud of the grandchildren and absolutely dote on the great-grandkids.

Then my mind drifted to my Bible reading. Last post I shared how I’m teaching on Hosea. I’m also reading on Ezekiel and Revelation. Sheryl Pellatiro’s The Bride of Christ shows the Israelite wedding traditions and how God wants us to be ready as Revelation reveals Christ’s return. Those weddings included an engagement where the two are separated and the bride doesn’t know when the groom will return. They are to keep pure. She is to remain ready. That the bride is a beautiful symbol of the Church.

As Brianna made her way down the aisle she was in a gorgeous white dress. Her hair was professionally done and her make-up was amazing. That’s what brides are expected to do. How disappointed would we all be if we watched a bride show up disheveled and looking more like PigPen from Peanuts?

Yet as I considered my recent studies, I realized that’s what globally we seem to be offering our groom, Jesus. As a whole, we are tainted by scandal, corruption, and flat-out sin. We’re dirty, smelly, and reek of yesterday’s choices. We’re not focused on our groom nor prepared for his arrival. We’re visiting places we shouldn’t be, doing things that if we knew our groom was coming, we’d stop everything and turn our mess around.

But we don’t.

I realize this post is probably preaching to the choir. Like I shared above, this is the Body of Christ as a whole. There are church leaders blatantly taking followers on an ungodly path where the Bible is used to please the congregation, not grow the Kingdom. I read a survey awhile back that if I remember correctly, those who identity as evangelical Christians—only 1% tithe regularly. What a sullied bride we are.

What I love about my studying is there is a beautiful rhythm to what I read. In Hosea, there is heartbreaking sin and promises that God will not be a part of Israel (and our) rebellion any longer. Yet, as chapters conclude, God offers hope and restoration.

If you know you aren’t looking like a bride waiting for her groom, know restoration is available to you. Find a pastor who daily lives out the Bible and ask for counsel. Turn from sin, and confess it.

Our Groom is worth it!

Posted in Julie Arduini | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

No Other Gods by James R. Coggins

First in a series

In the modern world, we laugh at primitive peoples who worship idols, who bow down to images of bulls and crocodiles and serpents, who revere the stars and the sun, who seek guidance through tea leaves and the entrails of animals. But this does not mean that we are not guilty of idolatry.

In the Ten Commandments, God (who identified Himself as Yahweh or “I am”) commanded the Israelites not to make images of any created thing (idols) because such images limit God the Creator to one small aspect of creation: “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them” (Exodus 20:3-5 NIV).

In Jeremiah 10:1-16, the prophet pointed out how ridiculous idol worship is: A craftsman cuts down a tree, shapes it with a chisel, covers it with silver or gold, and then bows down to worship what he has made. The idol cannot walk or talk but is as inanimate as a scarecrow. It can in no way be compared to the reality of the living God, who created the heavens and the earth.

Ancient peoples did not worship idols so much as what the idols represented. In some cases, the idols represented a demon or evil spirit that had influenced the makers of the idols. In 1 Corinthians 10:19, the apostle Paul suggested that idols are nothing and they have no power, but he went on in the next verse to say that “the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons.” In other cases, idols represented an idea of what God was like, a false idea.

We need to step back and think what worship is. We worship what we think of as our highest value or good. We worship what gives us refuge and good things and hope and purpose. We worship what brings us into contact with someone greater than ourselves. We can engage in all kinds of false worship without making a physical idol. We can take refuge in alcohol or drugs or video games. We can value pleasure or sex or money or fast cars or success or our own image of ourselves above all else. We can seek guidance through astrology or luck or coincidences. We can fulfill our urge to connect with greatness by becoming fans of sports stars or rock singers or actors. Idolatry is a constant temptation for all human beings.

Posted in James R. Coggins | Tagged , , | Leave a comment