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Finding Happiness

May 3, 2016 Leave a comment

stay away 2As I enjoyed an early morning quiet time on my patio recently, I became captivated by the play of light and dark, shadow and sunlight, across the foliage of my backyard. I had just been reading a devotional about mankind’s universal search for happiness. In the article, C. S. Lewis’ classic, Mere Christianity, is referenced, particularly this quote, “All that we call human history–money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery–is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”

After reading this quote, I glanced up from my iPad and saw the patterns the early morning sun was drawing in my garden. Some flowers were in shadow, while others were in sunlight. The flowers highlighted by the sunlight looked “happier” than those flowers residing in the shadows. Why was that? Well, obviously, it was because the “happier” flowers were basking in the sun’s light, while those in the shadow were not receiving the sun’s full benefits.. 

Although I’m quite certain flowers do not experience human emotions, my garden’s shadows and sunlight illustrated the truth of my devotional reading. We all seek happiness, but as long as we remain in the shadows–substituting other people, pleasures, and pursuits for God in our lives–we will never be truly happy.

“You make known to me the path of life, in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11.

Turn your face toward the Son. Bask in the warmth of His Light today. 

How’s This For A Name?

February 16, 2016 Leave a comment

Name BadgeDeciding what to name a child can be challenging. I’ve passed the stage of needing to think about naming babies. Instead, I’m faced with what to name a character in a book, and that too can prove challenging.

When a character enters a scene, the person’s name usually pops in my head at the same time. However, before accepting this moniker as the appropriate tag for the person, I do a little research just to make sure it isn’t the name of a celebrity or a politician or some other famous person.

I also want a villain’s name  to sound . . . well . . . villainous, and a strong character to have a strong sounding name. Think “Rocky” and you get the picture.

The Bible is full of great names for both babies  and characters. These are names that have been around for thousands of years, and have quite literally stood the test of time. But, there are many “one time use” names in the Bible as well.

For instance, in the book of Hosea, God instructs a prophet to name his daughter “No Mercy” (Hosea 1:6). The son who came later was named “Not My People” (Hosea 1:9). The Hebrew names Lo-ruhama and Lo-ammi never quite caught on as popular names for offspring, but those names portrayed the message God was endeavoring to send His people at that time.

In the book of Ruth, a widow named Naomi, who also lost two sons, decided she wanted to be called Bitter. The Hebrew word was mara, and she wanted her name changed to Mara because she said, “the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me” (Ruth 1:20).

If you wanted a name to reflect how God has dealt with you, what would you call yourself? Mine would be blessed. Just call me Blessed.

 

What You Are NOT

January 8, 2016 2 comments

 During a recent interview about Titus Ray, the main character in my Christian fiction series, I was asked to describe some of his personality traits. By doing so, I came up with some attributes, which point out what Titus is not: He is not an extrovert. He is not a scholar. He is not a family man.

By pinpointing what a person is NOT, a picture emerges about what a person is. The apostle John does this in the Gospel of John. He says, “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.” John 1:6-8.

Perhaps the most important attribute about John the Baptist was what he was NOT. He wasn’t the Messiah; He wasn’t the Light; He wasn’t our Savior. He had to reiterate this several times during his ministry. Every time he did so, he was able to tell people who he really was. He was a witness sent to point people to the real Savior, Jesus Christ.

There are other examples in Scripture of what people were NOT: Joseph was not an adulterous slave boy. David was not an intimidated shepherd. Daniel was not a cowered exile. Paul was not a timid follower of Christ.

How would you answer this question, “What are you NOT?”

How you answer that question will enable you to see what you are. The NOT realization of what he was helped John to know his role. He wasn’t the Light, but he was to tell about the Light. Perhaps you’re NOT a Sunday School teacher, but you can be a Sunday School member. Perhaps you’re NOT a teacher of the Bible, but you can read the Bible. Perhaps you’re NOT a prayer warrior, but you can pray.

John was sent by God. “There was a man sent from God.” John 1:6.

John was sent by God to be who he was;  not someone he was NOT. Discover who you are NOT, and you’ll discover who you are.

 

 

Now It Gets Personal!

December 8, 2015 2 comments

 There are so many ways to read the Bible. You can read it like great literature, read it for academic purposes, read it to understand a culture, read it to gain a sense of morality, or, of course, read it for a myriad of spiritual reasons—to know GOD, to know His Son, Jesus, to know the working of His Spirit.

I’ve discovered the best way to read the Bible is to make it personal, to view the message of God’s Word as personal, and to understand the words as written for me—personally. How’s that for personal?

The Bible itself encourages this method of Bible study. David, speaking in Psalm 16:11, says, “You make known to me the paths of life.” David has a personal relationship with God. While it’s true the Bible has a message for all people, God intends for that message to be understood and received by each individual.

I read through the Bible every year, and I’ve used a variety of Bible Reading Plans to do this. This year, I plan to use a journaling Bible and to concentrate my note-taking on how a passage speaks to me personally, what personal message God intended for me in the verses, and in what way a particular Scripture can deepen my personal relationship with Him.

You can find out more about a Journaling Bible here. For a great selection of various Bible Reading Plans, click here.

How personal can it get? Psalm 139 says it all.

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is high; I cannot attain it.

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
    Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
    If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with you.

13 For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a]
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.

17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
    I awake, and I am still with you

 

Maybe It Wasn’t The Best Bible Verse To Use

July 13, 2015 Leave a comment

TR Scripture 2When I was putting together a proposal for a Christian literary agent about the first book in my Titus Ray Thriller, One Night in Tehran, one of the questions the agent asked me was “What is the Scriptural basis of the novel?”  Because the majority of Christian fiction is either Amish fiction or in the romantic suspense genre, I imagined the Bible verses the agent usually received from authors in those categories was about love or forgiveness or kindness.

My novel is about Titus Ray, a veteran CIA intelligence officer who comes to faith in Christ through a group of Iranian Christians. He is spiritually impoverished, with no religious upbringing and no clue about how to live out his faith while continuing his espionage activities for the U.S. government. However, a verse of Scripture often quoted by Javad, the Iranian who led him to the Lord, is one Titus adopted to help him through difficult times. It’s from Matthew 10:16, where Jesus addresses his disciples before sending them out to announce His coming Kingdom.

Jesus said, “Behold I am sending you out as sheep among wolves, be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves.”

When I sent the proposal to the agent, that’s the verse I chose as the Scriptural basis for my series. Since I never heard back from that agent, maybe it wasn’t the best Bible verse to use.

However, I’ve come to appreciate that verse, and, since using it in my novel, I’ve run across a post on that Scripture by John Piper, a present-day theologian and author of the most helpful book I’ve ever read, Desiring God. Here’s the link to that post.

A short paragraph from the article reads, “So, yes, go among wolves and be vulnerable as you preach the gospel, but when they lunge at you, step aside. When they open their mouths, don’t jump in. And not only that, be as innocent as doves. That is, don’t give them any legitimate reason to accuse you of injustice or immorality. Keep your reputation as clean as you can.”

Today, believers wade through a morass of cultural upheavals and political issues, much like helpless sheep wandering among wolves. Yet, Jesus commands His followers to use wisdom and innocence as the primary means of presenting His Kingdom to the world.

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3 Things Make Life Better

June 30, 2015 Leave a comment

DoThreeThingsI love the story of the little girl whose mother found her crying in the kitchen. When her mother asked her what was wrong, she said, “I’m in the kitchen, but I still don’t know how to cook.” Her mother put her up on a kitchen stool and proceeded to help her bake some cookies. Later, as they munched on the delicacies, the little girl observed, “If I let you do it, I can do anything.”

There are times when I’m standing in the middle of life, and I suddenly realize I don’t know how to live. That’s when I try to remember to do these three things. By doing so, I feel as if I can do anything.

1. Ask God to take over.

There’s a popular song entitled “Jesus Take The Wheel.” It’s almost comical to think of Jesus of Nazareth in a long white robe and dusty sandals sitting in the driver’s seat and tooling along the highway of life with me in the passenger seat. However, while the picture may be amusing, the concept is theologically sound. John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” You can have peace; He’s overcome all the obstacles. Trust Him.

2.  Allow others to help you.

It’s an all-American ideal to “make it on our own” or to “act independently,” but, that’s not a Biblical concept. When Paul speaks of believers in Christ, he describes each one as part of a whole. In fact, he sees this whole as if it were a human body. He says in 1 Corinthians 12:14, “the body is not one member, but many.” When I ask help from a fellow believer, I’m functioning in the way God intended His Spiritual body on earth to function.

3. Accept the personality God gave you.

Are you an introvert? Then don’t expect to live as an extrovert. Do you enjoy talking? Then don’t expect to stay silent. God says in Psalm 17, “You are the apple of my eye,” and in Isaiah 44:2, “This is what the LORD says– he who made you, who formed you in the womb, and who will help you:” Perhaps the best passage for understanding the hand of God upon the life of every individual is Psalm 139. The message in these verses is that God made you the way you are, and you glorify Him when you accept this truth.

Ask God.

Allow Others.

Accept Yourself.

Remember this pyramid with God at the pinnacle. “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13.

New Release: Two Days in Caracas, A Titus Ray Thriller

June 17, 2015 1 comment

3 d smallToday I’m announcing the release of the second book in the Titus Ray Thriller Series, Two Days in Caracas.

My first Christian fiction novel, One Night in Tehran, introduced Titus Alan Ray, a CIA intelligence officer, who is brought to faith in Christ after hiding out with a group of Iranian Christians in Tehran, Iran. Their unwavering faith so touched his heart, he was compelled to make his own commitment to Christ, thus beginning a journey more mystifying, yet more rewarding, than any of his previous missions.

In Book 1, Titus tries taking his first “baby steps” in his faith walk when he attempts to pray before a debriefing on his blown mission to Tehran. He fails miserably, but he doesn’t give up. After he learns he’s been targeted by a Hezbollah assassin and arrives in Norman, Oklahoma (no spoilers here, but his visit to Oklahoma was not his choice), he decides it might be a good idea to start reading the Bible. His venture into a Christian bookstore to purchase a Bible is a nerve-wracking experience for this hardened covert officer. This event is followed by his first visit to a church worship service, where he encounters people who want to shake his hand and other strange phenomenon, including a new type of vocabulary he must learn.

In the midst of figuring out what it means to be a follower of Christ, Titus gets involved in a murder, meets a beautiful, local detective—who is also a believer—and tries to evade Ahmed Al-Amin, the Hezbollah assassin who wants to murder him.

In Book 2, Titus Ray, travels from Costa Rica to Venezuela in an effort to stop Ahmed Al-Amin from assassinating a high-profile government official. Along the way, a family crisis jeopardizes his mission, and an Agency division head threatens to destroy his career. As the danger mounts, he’s forced to partner with an untested operative to complete the mission and bring Ahmed to justice.

In this second book, Titus is thrust into several situations where he’s faced with the need to offer forgiveness for past sins. These are gut-wrenching episodes, and he’s not always successful. Then, when he encounters a physically debilitating crisis in the midst of his mission, he reaches out to God to provide the answer and, what happens next, is something many new believers in Christ often experience for themselves.

Because this blog is mostly devoted to insights into God’s Word, here are some of Titus’ own words after reading his Bible one morning during his latest mission.

My self-analysis did little to lighten my mood, so I opened the drawer of the nightstand and pulled out the hotel’s Bible. It fell open to Psalm 42. After reading a few verses, I realized whoever had written the psalm had experienced the same emotions I was having.

He said his soul was downcast, and that’s exactly how I felt.

Unlike me, though, he had the solution.

He advised, “Put your hope in God.”

Feeling foolish because I hadn’t considered this, I bowed my head. (Titus Ray, Two Days in Caracas, Chapter 20).

Two Days in Caracas will release on Amazon on June 26th. The Kindle copy is available now for preorder, and you can order the print copy on June 26th. Many of my readers have said One Night in Tehran is an non-intimidating way of sharing the gospel with unbelievers. I pray Two Days in Caracas will also open up witnessing opportunities, while, at the same time, providing readers with a fast-paced, pulse-racing thriller full of intrigue, romance and suspense.

Link to Two Days in Caracas on Amazon.

 

 

 

A Bar Full Of Blue

May 21, 2015 Leave a comment

Download imageIf you would have asked me the moment I made my commitment to Christ if I loved the Lord, I would have said yes. Of course I did. Now though, as I look back on it, it’s hard to measure that kind of love. That’s because I know more about Him now, so I feel I love Him more. My relationship with Him now, as compared to when I first came into a relationship with Him at the age of six, makes that initial claim of loving him seem as nothing.

I was thinking about this as I sat in front of my computer watching a new program get downloaded. A pop-up box dominated the screen with a line of text assuring me that the process of downloading was taking place.  Even though I wasn’t able to see it, I was supposed to believe it was going on in the background.

To help me visualize the progress of the download, a long bar appeared in the pop-up box. It was clear with no color showing, but because I’d done this before, I knew that as the software elements were added to my hard drive, the bar would begin to fill up with blue. The colorization would begin on the left side and gradually make its way over to the right, culminating in a solid blue bar. Once that happened, success! The download was complete, and I was encouraged to begin using my new program.

How the blue download bar related to my thoughts about my love for Christ is easy to describe but hard to explain. Picture the clear bar as the moment I accepted Him as my Savior and the bar completely filled in with blue as knowing Him fully and loving Him perfectly. Now, sixty years later, what kind of progress can I see on the blue bar? Practically none. Perhaps a little sliver of blue on the far left-hand side. Nothing more.

However, like the message on the pop-up box, God’s Word is continually reassuring us our lives are being changed and the elements of our sanctification are being added. Though we may not see any progress, we must believe the message. Then, as we wait patiently for the download to be complete, one day we’ll hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:23).

One day, the download will be complete, and we’ll be able to use our new program.

In the meantime, be patient and keep reading His Message of hope.

 

God Has A Bell; He Wants To Hear You Ring It

April 14, 2015 1 comment

Bell2Last week, when my grandson was too sick to go to school, he spent the day at our house. Right after I’d tucked him in bed, he asked, “Do I get to have the bell?”

The “bell” is a hand-sized figurine of an angel gazing at a bird in her hands–not exactly the sort of thing an eleven-year old boy usually wants. However, there’s a small clapper in the hollow of the figurine, and when he grasps the head of the angel and shakes it, the high-pitched sound  is loud enough to be heard throughout the house.

I’ve had the bell for a number of years—it was given to me by a Bible study group—and a few years ago, I decided to put it to good use. Now, whenever anyone in my household gets sick, I put the bell within easy reach of their bedside. That way, if they need something, I can be summoned to their side.

My mother, who was in a wheelchair during the last years of her life, had to use the bell a lot more than most family members. Whenever she did, she would apologize for having to ring the bell. “It’s nice to have an angel when I need help,” she’d say, “but I hate to be a bother.”

My grandson, though, voiced no such sentiment when he rang the bell.

He rang it just to see if I could hear him ringing it. He rang it to ask for a drink, a cracker, a bowl of ice cream. He rang it to call attention to something on the television screen. He rang it to ask for a bowl of ice cream. He rang it because he said he was bored. He rang it to tell me he was happy to be at my house and not in school.

God also has a bell. He calls it prayer. Whenever I ring His  angel bell, He’s at my side immediately. Sometimes, I think I’m using it too often, and  I need to apologize. “I’m so sorry I have to ask for this again. I’m so sorry I can’t  remember what you told me. I’m so sorry I have to ask forgiveness for this sin.”

However, at other times,  I act just like my grandson. I ring it often and long, and I’m continually asking for something that I don’t even need. But, like a grandma who’s just happy her grandson wants to have her at his side, God doesn’t mind when He hears the angel bell ringing. He’s delighted His children want to spend time with Him, even if it’s just to ask Him for something. He’s happy His children believe He’s the answer to everything that matters.

He’s always overjoyed to hear that bell ringing! Ring away!

Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

 

 

I Want To Know God

March 19, 2015 Leave a comment

Know GodLast week, I talked with a young lady who had been a believer for several years, but who had just recently decided to become involved in a Bible study. She said, “I want to know God, and I know that’s only going to happen if I study my Bible.”

Without realizing it, this young lady had made a profound statement. There’s no way anyone can know God except through the study of Scriptures, except through studying the revelation He’s given us through the Word He’s given us. The best way to learn about God is to read and study and meditate on the love letter He’s written to us.

Although I met my husband-to-be when I was sixteen years old, for the next two years, we lived a thousand miles away from each other and never had the opportunity to spend any time together. I understood why my friends and family were surprised when I announced James and I were getting married only a couple of months after my eighteenth birthday. What they failed to grasp was that James and I had been corresponding with each other regularly, and, through those letters, we had come to know each other as well as many couples who had been dating for several years.

While this illustrates the concept of getting to know God through reading His Word, it fails to portray the real picture of how intimacy with God is possible through the study of His Word. This truth can only be experienced when a believer spends time in the Word every day. This is the way God has chosen to build a relationship with His children. This is the way God speaks to His children, and this is the way His children learn to recognize the voice of the Father.

Jesus said His followers are able to discern His voice. John 10:27, My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”  

Read His Word, become familiar with the sound of His voice, if you truly “want to know God.”

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