“Almost A Bride” Book Review

I’m always excited to receive a new Jody Hedlund book to read and review before its release. I’ve read and enjoyed the first three books in her Bride Ships series: A Reluctant Bride, The Runaway Bride, and A Bride of Convenience. This final book, Almost A Bride, was a disappointment for me. There’s some really good character growth, but overall I didn’t enjoy this story nearly as much as I did the first books in the series or her other novels I’ve read. This might have something to do with my own personal experiences, and I’ll be sure to talk about that in this review so you can decide for yourself if I’ve judged the book too harshly.

Kate Millington has no trouble finding potential husbands. Staying engaged, however, is a problem. She arrives in the frontier mining town of Williamsville intending to marry her latest fiancé, only to panic and back out of their deal. He’s the fourth man she’s failed to marry — two back home, and now two more since she arrived in British Columbia on a bride ship. She longs for true love, but she’s also frightened of trusting any man with her heart.

Zeke Hart barely remembers Kate from their childhood. Back then, she was just the little sister of his best friend. He’s sure she couldn’t have good memories of him, considering how he left things back home. Falsely accused of a crime, he ran away to the new world and turned his back on God. Now a prosperous owner of a gold mine and one of the most powerful men in the area, he doesn’t see a need for faith. But meeting Kate again convinces him he has a powerful need for a wife. If only she wasn’t so hung-up on that whole issue of him not being a Christian.

In the background of Kate and Zeke’s personal struggles and ill-advised romance, there’s another threat building. A jealous ex-fiancé stabs Zeke. Someone sets an explosive charge in his mine, nearly killing him. He receives anonymous threats. Perhaps the question of whether or not they should be together isn’t the only thing these two need to worry about.

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Fighting on the Battlefield of Forgiveness

Last week’s post was about how much God wants to forgive us. This week’s is about how much we need to forgive each other. There are plenty of Bible verses about this topic and so, like most Christians, I knew how important forgiveness is before writing this post. But something Paul said in one of his letters made me want to take a closer look at the subject.

The reasons Paul gives for forgiving someone in the Corinthian church provide us with a compelling reason for forgiving others. I’d never thought about forgiveness being a key part of spiritual warfare before, but I do now. Whether or not we choose to forgive is one of the things that determines whether Satan gets an advantage over us, or we get an advantage over him by drawing closer to God.

Don’t Give an Advantage to Satan

For background, in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he told them they needed to put a man out of their church who was actively engaging in sexual sin (1 Cor. 5). Now, in the second letter, Paul has heard that this man repented and Paul tells the church to forgive him and accept him back.

This punishment which was inflicted by the many is sufficient for such a one; so that on the contrary you should rather forgive him and comfort him, lest by any means such a one should be swallowed up with his excessive sorrow. Therefore I beg you to confirm your love toward him. … Now I also forgive whomever you forgive anything. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, that no advantage may be gained over us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes. (2 Cor. 2:6-8, 10-11, all quotes from WEB translation)

Choosing to withhold forgiveness– even when someone has sinned so egregiously they were put out of the church; even when you’ve heard about their repentance from someone else instead of seeing it for yourself — would give an advantage to Satan. The Greek word pleonekteo (G4122) carries the idea of taking advantage of or  defrauding someone. The word for “covetousness” comes from this word (The Complete WordStudy Dictionary: New Testament, by Spiros Zodhiates Th.D.).

Talk of Satan (which means “adversary”) gaining an advantage over us also brings to mind the idea that we’re in a spiritual battle. If you don’t forgive, you’re giving the adversary a foothold in your life. And that ought to be a terrifying thought. However, it is something we can prevent because, as Paul says, we’re not ignorant of his schemes.

Armor Up With God’s Help

We are part of a spiritual battle. The adversary (ha Satan in Hebrew) is fighting against God’s family, and we’re part of that family. Every human being has the potential to become part of God’s family and those of us in covenant with God are already adopted as His children.

Beloved, now we are children of God. It is not yet revealed what we will be; but we know that when he is revealed, we will be like him; for we will see him just as he is. Everyone who has this hope set on him purifies himself, even as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3)

God’s adversary hates what God loves. Satan accuses us before our God day and night (Rev. 12:10; Job is also an example). He tries to use his wiles against us, and he’s behind the “the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” that we wrestle against (Eph. 6:10-13). The last thing we should want to do is give Satan an advantage over us in this fight. Rather, we want to stay close to God, put on His armor, stand, and resist the devil.

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Avoid Things That Separate You From God

The reason that unforgiveness is so very dangerous (I think) is connected to the wedge it drives between us and God. We’re more vulnerable to the adversary’s attacks when we are not sticking close to the source of our armor and strength. There are certain things that separate us from God, and we need forgiveness and reconciliation to heal the breach of relationship that sin causes. But we don’t get forgiveness if we’re not willing to give it.

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you don’t forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matt. 6:14-15)

Jesus’s parable in Matthew 18:21-35 puts this in even more chilling language. In this parable, forgiveness that has already been given by a master to an indebted servant is withdrawn because that servant refuses to forgive someone who owes him a much smaller debt. Jesus caps this parable off by saying, “So my heavenly Father will also do to you, if you don’t each forgive your brother from your hearts for his misdeeds.” That’s quite a sobering statement.

God is merciful and good. He knows forgiveness can be so hard that sometimes it feels like fighting a battle. He doesn’t abandon us just because we’re struggling. But He does expect us to make an effort to deliberately, consistently forgive other people. Carrying bitterness, grudges, anger, and judgmental attitudes around will not help our Christian walk and can, in fact, hinder it.

Consider Jesus’s Example

Therefore let’s also, seeing we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let’s run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith (Heb. 12:1-2)

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Whenever it becomes difficult to lay aside the weight of unforgiveness, look to Jesus. The book of Hebrews tells us to “consider him who has endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, that you don’t grow weary, fainting in your souls” Heb. 12:3). When we consider the example He set us, we see Him forgiving even in the worst of circumstances.

When they came to the place that is called “The Skull”, they crucified him there with the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:33-34)

If Jesus could forgive the people who tortured and killed him while He was hanging on the cross, surely we can forgive whatever it is that people have done to us. Especially because God has given us warnings and instructions through His Bible and help through His holy spirit. We know the dangers of unforgiveness and we have what we need to follow Christ’s example. Let’s resolve to forgive, and to keep forgiving as often as need be, following the example of Christ and resisting the adversary’s influence so “that no advantage may be gained over us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.”

 

Featured image credit: Thomas Anderson via Pixabay

 

Learning From Others’ Spiritual Temperaments: Book Review of “Sacred Pathways” by Gary Thomas

A couple weeks ago, in an article titled “Psychology Isn’t Enough, but It Sure Helps: The Need for Personal, Spiritual Growth in Christianity” I talked about a book by Gary Thomas called Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul’s Path To God. I originally read it back in 2017 and I’d planned to write about it here on the blog but for some reason (which I don’t remember now) I never got around to it. So I reread it, and now I’d like to share some thoughts.

Book Overview

Thomas proposes nine “sacred pathways” — spiritual temperaments that describe how we’re most inclined to worship God. In the first chapter, he discusses that in the Christian churches we often expect everyone to worship God the same way. The example he uses is the “quiet time” that became a staple of church training and discipleship programs in the 1970s and ’80s. It involved spending 30 to 60 minutes each morning in prayer, personal worship, and Bible study, then having an accountability partner to check-in that you were keeping up with your routine. Prayer, worship, and study are all good things, but it’s not good if we reduce worship to “rote exercise” or assume everyone has to worship in the exact same way all the time (p. 14-15).

I’ve heard the idea that everyone else should worship “our way” voiced more or less directly by a variety of people in churches I’ve attended. Some think churches that don’t encourage dance are not worshiping Biblically; others worry about the people who aren’t committed enough to follow their example of reading the Bible through every year. I’ve voiced my own frustration with song services that have all the enthusiasm of a funeral dirge, saying we need more life in our worship to make it meaningful. Complaining about those who don’t  worship the way we think they ought is a common thing. But perhaps it betrays a wrong attitude. Read more

Mercies from Yahweh of Armies

Work, work your thoughts and therein see a king at war who holds those guilty that defy him. Behold him facing a besieged town, shouting out all the terrors that await those who persist in defiance, yet offering mercy if only they will yield to his authority. Note his relief when one chooses mercy, his gentleness with those who trust him and his swift vengeance on those who persist in rebellion.

I borrow this scene from my favorite Shakespeare play, Henry V (Act 3, prologue, Scene 2). But it’s also a Biblical image. We sometimes lose sight in the modern world that the KJV phrase “Lord of hosts” literally means “Yahweh of Armies.” One of the most often used titles of God is about Him personally going forth with a host of armies organized for war.

This is a comforting image when God is fighting against our enemies. But sometimes, “Yahweh’s anger burns against his people,” particularly when “they have rejected the law of Yahweh of Armies and despised the Holy One of Israel” (Is. 5:24-25). Even when that happens, though, God deeply desires to show mercy. His justice demands punishment for sin (Heb. 10:30-31), but His mercy offers a path to forgiveness and salvation (1 Pet. 2:24-25).

It’s common in modern churches to say that God was vengeful and frightening in the Old Testament but is gentle and loving in the New. Such a disconnect is not supported by scripture. Both the Father and the Word (who we now know as Jesus) have been active throughout history. They’re unchanging. In order to have a fuller, more accurate vision of who God is and what He is doing, we need to acknowledge that He is both wrathful justice and gentle mercies.

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God’s Desire to Forgive

After the death of righteous Josiah, king of Judah, his son Jehohaz reigned for just 3 months before an Egyptian king dethroned him and set up his brother Jehoiakim in his place. This new king “did that which was evil in Yahweh his God’s sight” (2 Chr. 35:25-36:8). At this time, God was actively working through the prophet Jeremiah, and He sent him with a message.

In the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from Yahweh, saying, “Take a scroll of a book, and write in it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spoke to you, from the days of Josiah, even to this day. It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I intend to do to them; that they may each return from his evil way; that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.” (Jer. 36:1-3, all verses quoted from WEB translation unless otherwise noted)

Jeremiah’s prophecies contain warnings, corrections, lessons, and promises. From God’s words here in the passage I just quoted, it seems one of His main goals in sharing all those warnings was to save people from the consequences of their own disobedience.

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Need Something New to Do? Here’s What Hobby You Should Try Based on Your Myers-Briggs® Type

The world is opening back up after quarantines and shelter-in-place orders. Most of us are now free to leave our homes, even though we’re being asked to social distance. Still, things aren’t entirely back to normal and many of us find we have some extra free time on our hands this summer. Large social events like concerts and festivals are canceled, we can’t go to movie theaters, and it might be hard to get together with friends.

Maybe now is a good time to try out a new hobby. I’ve been writing a series of posts for Psychology Junkie about 21 hobbies each Myers-Briggs® type loves. For this post here on my blog, though, I’m just going to suggest one for each type. I’ll skip the more common hobbies like reading, music, and art (which people of every personality type enjoy) and focus on some that are a bit more unique.

The hobby I chose for each type is one that I’ve seen at least one or two people of that type talk about enjoying, though it’s usually not common enough it would appear on a list of top 5 hobbies for that type. My hope is that you’ll find some suggestions you’re intrigued by but haven’t tried yet. Also, don’t hesitate to borrow a hobby suggestion from one of the other types. Who knows; you might find that hobbies other people love give you a fun new experience.

ENFJ — Local Exploration

Many ENFJs enjoy meeting new people, but something you might not have thought of is how much fun it could be to “meet” new places. Travel and exploration is a favorite hobby of some ENFJs, and you can even do that close to home. I’m pretty sure there are at least a few small towns, parks, tourist attractions, or other intriguing locations in your local area that you haven’t explored yet.

INFJ — Target Practice

This is the hobby that surprised me most when I was researching how other INFJs spend their free time. I came across several INFJs talking about how much they enjoyed archery, skeet shooting, and related hobbies. Most mentioned that they shoot at targets rather than going hunting. I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised considering how intrigued I am by archery. So if you’re an INFJ looking for a new hobby, perhaps you’ll want to give this one a try. Read more

Titles of Jesus Christ: David’s Son

Over and over in the gospels, people cry out to Jesus, “Have mercy on us, you son of David!”

Why is the Messiah’s title as David’s son the one that blind men and a Canaanite woman latched on to as they asked for healing? (Matt. 9:27; 15:22; 20:30-31; Mark 10:46-48; Luke 18:35-39). Why did the people shout, “Hosanna to the son of David!” when Jesus entered Jerusalem, and why did that make the chief priests and the scribes so indignant? (Matt. 21:9, 15; Mark 11:10). What is the significance of this title?

It would be easy to gloss over Jesus’ title as David’s son, simply taking it as fulfillment of a few prophecies that said Messiah (the Hebrew equivalent to “Christ,” which means “anointed”) would come from King David’s descendants. But the Biblical writers treat this as a highly significant fact, and I think it’s worth looking into more closely.

Fulling A Covenant Promise

I’ve talked about the covenant aspect of Jesus being descended from David in several posts already, including “Inheriting Covenants.” The Lord made a covenant with David that He would establish his offspring’s kingdom forever, and that connected with the promise of Messiah (2 Sam. 7:12-15).

Yahweh has sworn to David in truth. He will not turn from it: “I will set the fruit of your body on your throne. If your children will keep my covenant, my testimony that I will teach them, their children also will sit on your throne forever more.” (Ps. 132:11-12, all verses from WEB translation)

David’s descendants eventually fell into disobedience and lost the physical kingdoms of Israel and Judah. But Jesus — a sinless, obedient son of David — inherited the covenant promise. According to Peter, David actually knew that would be the end result of God’s promises to him about his descendants. Read more