Tuesdays With Yeshua: Review of the NIV Study Essentials Bible

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The NIV Study Essentials Bible uses the updated 2011 New International Version text to bring the Bible to life for a whole new generation of readers. There is a lot of special content within the pages of this book that is meant to enhance the reader’s understanding of Bible passages, key lessons, and the major (and some minor) figures mentioned in the text.

While I generally prefer the NASB as a literal translation and the NLT as a dynamic, thought-for-thought translation, the NIV strikes a good balance between the two…and I have to say I prefer this updated version of the text over the 1984 NIV I grew up with, or even the 1996 update. It’s clear that a lot of thought and prayer went into the making of this Bible.

 NIV Essentials Study Bible.1032.cover

One of my favorite features of this Bible is the variety of reading plans. There’s the old standby plan for reading the Bible through in one year (in order, from Genesis to Revelation). But there are some other, shorter, fascinating reading plans – a 60-day overview of the Bible, 20 Not-so-Famous Bible stories, 30 Days of Faith (I’m a big fan of anything to do with faith), and 30 Days with Jesus (Yeshua). It should go without saying that I’m also a big fan of Yeshua, since this weekly feature is named after Him! 

I also really love the Q&A section. There’s some solid biblical advice contained in this segment for some tough questions… And some of the answers are a little surprising. For example, the answer to the question “Are Christians Required to Tithe?” may surprise you. I know it did me…but it made perfect sense and lined up perfectly with the Word, citing several verses and passages to drive the point home. I’m satisfied.

This Bible is easy-to-read and easy-to-use, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who wants to dig deeper into God’s Word.

***Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”***

Friday Free-for-All: Book Review of RED SEA RULES by Robert J. Morgan

Friday Free-for-All

 

RED SEA RULES: 10 God-Given Strategies for Difficult Times is a fascinating look at faith. The author, Morgan, takes the reader back to Exodus 14 and 15…the chapters in the Bible that detail the Israelites’ crossing of the Red Sea. Obviously, this is where the title comes from. But the author does more than just recount the biblical story. He interweaves it with his own personal stories of faith-building and faith-testing times, and he includes the real life experiences of others, as well. Each chapter (action step) contains personal application questions and calls to action so that the reader can take what he/she has learned and apply it to his/her own times of trouble.

RED SEA RULES: 10 God-Given Strategies for Difficult Times    

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson’s BookLook Bloggers reviewing program. I’ll admit, I was drawn to the idea of receiving free books from a major Christian publisher. I’ve received a lot of book review requests over the past few years, but not many of them have been for Christian books. Since I am a Christian, these kinds of books are near and dear to my heart, but I don’t get as much opportunity to read them as I would like. God took care of that, I think, but connecting me with this program.

I took a lot of time and energy in deciding which book I would select as my first as a BookLook Blogger. I thought about going with a work of fiction because it would be easier, but this title and cover caught my eye, and I kept returning to it. I figured there was a reason, and that reason was that I probably needed to read it. So, I selected it, and boy am I glad I did.

I enjoyed every minute of this book. It was entertaining, informative, and refreshingly well written and well edited. I certainly have been challenged to go further in my faith walk with God, and I know this was the author’s main purpose in writing this book. He wanted to inspire others to increase their faith and get closer to God. It certainly worked with me!

I’ve decided to print out the “10 Strategies” and hang them up somewhere I will see them every day, so I will remember what I’ve learned in reading this book. It’s absolutely biblically sound, and I can’t recommend it highly enough for any follower of Christ who’s looking for a faith challenge.    

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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Thriller Thursdays: Two Reasons Why I Believe in Ghosts…and the One Reason I Don’t (Part One)

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In my current WIP, REFLECTIONS OF THINGS PAST (the sequel to SHADOWS OF THINGS TO COME), I deal with the issue of ghosts in, what I hope, will be a very God-pleasing, God-honoring way.

I’ve always been fascinated with ghost stories…ever since I was a very young child. I remember checking ghost story after ghost story out of the library (and buying them up in bookstores too – books didn’t used to be so expensive!): The Dollhouse Murders, Wait Till Helen Comes, Christina’s Ghost, etc.

And then I started reading the “real” ghost story books. I remember I was somewhere at night with my parents (I think at a Bardstown community theater practice or something), and I had this book with me (I always had a book with me – still do). I began reading this story about Anne Boleyn’s ghost, and a storm started brewing. It scared me so much, the first thing I started doing was praying. I stopped reading and prayed…and the storm ended. Fear gone. That incident still says with me, in the back of my mind, over 30 years later. That’s a lesson I’m still trying to learn: STOP. PRAY. FEAR GONE.

But just because I’ve always been fascinated by ghost stories, that doesn’t necessarily mean I believe in ghosts. I’ve never seen one, although I have had some pretty unusual experiences. The fact is, though, I do believe in ghosts…sort of. Here’s why:

1)      God Himself is Spirit, and I believe in Him; therefore, it would be foolish of me to not believe in a real spirit world. I do believe in it. In fact, sometimes I think the spirit world is more real than the world I’m living in right now.

2)      The Bible (1 Thessalonians 5:23) tells us that man is made up of three parts: body, soul, and spirit. The body is what connects us to the physical world around us. The soul (itself composed of three parts: mind, will, and emotions) connects us with our own inner realities; that is, how we think, feel, and interact with the physical and spiritual worlds around us. The spirit is what connects us to the spiritual world. It is what enables us to communicate with God through the work of the Holy Spirit.

See there? The God who created us is Spirit, and we are made in His image (so we have a spirit inside us, as well). When we die, our physical body dies, but our soul and spirit keep on living.

By this reasoning, then, it would make perfect sense to believe in ghosts. If someone’s spirit isn’t really dead, then they could go on living here on the earth eternally… Except for one very important thing, which I’ll get to next week.

Wedding Planner Wednesdays: Meet Skye Jansen

Wedding Planner Wednesdays

Recently, Ruth L. Snyder finished up the first round of THE SAN FRANCISCO WEDDING PLANNER series with her story, SHADOWS AND SUNSHINE. Now all six stories are available in ebook format for only 99 cents each.

Next week (a week from tomorrow, actually), all the stories in the next round will be released. To celebrate, Ruth suggested we start a blog hop to better introduce readers to our characters. Most of the authors in the series are participating, and she’s recruited a number of other Helping Hands Press authors who’ve written blog posts to introduce readers to their characters and stories.

For the second round in the wedding planner series, we’re each supposed to concentrate on one character and write a back story for them. I’ve chosen Heather Donovan’s best friend, Skye Jansen, as my main focus. Her story, entitled AN URGENT AFFAIR, is going to be a fun look at some of the most important relationships in her life, including her relationship with Heather.

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Today, Skye has agreed to take some time out from her incredibly busy schedule (you know she’s a devoted wife and mother of two young children AND she’s just opened her own cafe, The Cucumber Sandwich) to come talk to me and tell everyone a little more about herself. Hi, Skye. Thanks for being here today.

Skye: I’m glad to do it. Actually, if you want to know the truth, I’ve been kind of looking forward to this because it gives me a little time to breathe. I haven’t had much of that recently.

I’ll bet! I can’t imagine how you do it all, but you really have made a success of it so far, haven’t you?

Skye: So far. I’ve had some amazing support, though, from my husband Abe and his mother…and, of course, my wonderful kids, Bram and Britt. Plus, everyone in Heather’s sphere of influence – Mario, especially – has been more than willing to help in any way they can. Heather’s got a marvelous team working with her.

She is one very lucky lady.

Skye: Hmm…Lucky, maybe. I’d call it blessed.

Right. You’re blessed too, though, aren’t you?

Skye: Oh, absolutely!

But things haven’t always been easy for you.

Skye: No, I’ve had my fair share of trouble.

Like your father dying when you were still in college?

Skye: Yes. That was especially hard because he and I became so close after Mama died when I was 10. He never did remarry. I don’t have any brothers or sisters, so it was just the two of us. I wish he was here to see me now. He’d be so proud.

I’m sure he would. Of course, your father’s death was one of the hardest things you’ve ever had to go through. What has been one of the best things that’s ever happened?

Skye: Oh, there are so many things, I don’t know where to start. Marrying my husband, of course. He’s just one of the most wonderful men you could ever hope to meet. And, of course, my children. Finally realizing the dream of opening my own store is the most recent good thing that’s happened. But that didn’t really “happen.” It took a lot of time and planning.

So, tell me about The Cucumber Sandwich. Why cucumbers, specifically? Are they your favorite food?

Skye: They really are! Organic, of course. They have to be organic. Everybody thinks I’m crazy for this focus on organic food and environmental responsibility, but they’ll be thanking me one day. Just wait and see.

Speaking of the future, what do you see happening in the future for you? For your family? For your business?

Skye: Goodness. I can’t even think very far past tomorrow. Of course, the kids will finish school, and I hope they’ll be admitted to the best colleges in the nation – full scholarship, of course, to make it a little easier on Mom and Dad’s pocketbook. But that’s WAY off in the future. I’d hope that my business will be thriving in another year…maybe it’ll even become one of the hottest spots in San Francisco eventually. That would be amazing! And I hope I’ll be there to enjoy it all. It would be nice to see some big rewards from all this labor.

Nice, indeed. I really hope everything turns out well for you. Thank you so much for stopping by for our chat.

Skye: Oh, you’re so welcome. It was so much fun!

And thank you, dear reader, for taking the time to get to know Skye a little better. If you want to know even more, be sure to check out AN URGENT AFFAIR when it comes out next week. And don’t forget to stop by all the other blogs on this tour. Some of the authors are even hosting giveaways, so you won’t want to miss those!

Helping Hands Press Summer Reading Blog Tour

Tuesdays with Yeshua: Why Bad Things Don’t Happen to Good People

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In recent years, there have been a number of books that have been released and have received much attention like, When Bad Things Happen to Good People (first published in 1981, but this book saw a huge resurgence in popularity after 9/11), Why Bad Things Happen to Good Peopleetc. All of these ask the question, “Why, God? Why do I have to suffer this illness? Why does my child have leukemia? Why?” And when bad times come, Christians crumble into doubt and questions and wonder where God is.

They begin to think, ‘If all these bad things are happening to me, a good person, then does God really exist? Where is He? Why isn’t He stopping these things from happening? Does He really love me like He says He does?’ They become, for all intents and purposes, practical atheists.

That is, they become practical atheists if these thoughts aren’t kept in check. There’s nothing wrong with questioning God. Abraham did it, Job did it, David did too, and he was a man after God’s own heart (see Acts 13:22). The difference was: Their faith in God was solid. They knew His promises (His Word), they believed it, and they held onto it even in the midst of their troubles. They knew that God would deliver them…somehow. They understood that, as author Robert J. Morgan puts it in his book, The Red Sea Rules: “[T]he Lord is in the business of delivering His people…in His own way…in His own time…for His own glory.”

A couple of weeks ago, I was at church on a Sunday night, and the parenting class I had been attending was canceled, so I sat with my husband in the other class, which was going over the video study of Acts of God. The idea behind it is basically the same as the previously mentioned books. A tragedy affects the lives of six people (all believers), who are asking why God allows so much pain to affect those who love Him. It’s the same old complaint: “I’m a good person, so why is such a bad thing happening to me?”

But Yeshua said that no one but God is good (Mark 10:18). The Greek word used there for “good” is agathos, which has several definitions and connotations, but certainly the most relevant here in this passage, since the rich young ruler starts out by calling Yeshua “Good Teacher” is “excellent, distinguished, upright, and honorable.”

Do you see why Yeshua would say what He did? No one is upright and honorable, except God. We’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Every single one of us. Not one of us is at all righteous or good (Romans 3:10). We like to think we’re good because we go to church or because we do this or that…but the only goodness we have in us – the only hint of righteousness we have – comes directly from Yeshua through the Holy Spirit. The goodness is not in us. It’s in Him.

The second argument I want to make is that bad things don’t ever really “happen”… not in the way these books and movies describe. The word “happen” connotes something unexpected, and of course, sometimes things do come into our lives that are unexpected…FOR US. But nothing ever comes as a surprise to God. He is the Master Designer, the Orchestrator of All Life and Eventuality. Nothing occurs in this world – in anyone’s life – that does not pass through His hand first.

My Grammy used to say, “Life is hard, and then you die.” She passed away last November, so her suffering is finally over. The fact is, life is hard. It really is. When Adam sinned in the garden, he ushered in sin and evil that would affect all of creation until the Lord returns and sets it all right again. But God is good. He will set it all right. In His time. In the meantime, we have to keep walking and trusting and living for Him – depending on Him in all circumstances. As I said before in a recent blog post, God wants us to be dependent on Him for, and obedient to Him in, everything.

He’ll take all the bad and use it for His glory…if we’ll let Him.

Saga Saturdays: Five Reasons I Wouldn’t Have Wanted to Live in the 19th Century

Saga Saturdays

As I started to write my first historical novel, SUN’S PARTING RAY, a couple of years ago, I thought a lot about what it would be like to be a woman living in Kentucky in the 19th century, since that’s who my main character is…and that’s who my real life ancestor, Jane Compton Austin, on whom my MC was very loosely based, was.

While I think I would have enjoyed certain aspects of living back then, there are some definite things I would not have liked at all (although I have to wonder if, had a lived back then, these things would bother me quite as much as they do now – having the 20th/21st century mindset that I have). Anyway, here’s a list of five of the main reasons I would not have wanted to live back then (and a few of them have to do with the fact that I am a woman).

1) Childbirth/Periods:  Not long ago, I learned about something called the menstrual cup. Intrigued, I Googled it (Actually I Binged it. I use Bing more than Google now because I can actually earn stuff for doing so. It’s pretty cool!), and discovered that it is an admirable eco-friendly alternative to pads and tampons. However, the whole idea of the thing sounds gross. You’re constantly having to take it out, wash it, and put it back in. It’s so much easier to use something up, take it out, and throw it away. Call me wasteful, but in this case, I absolutely would be.

In a similar vein, the idea of having children (more specifically, the actual process of giving birth) in the 19th century just doesn’t appeal to me at all. Both my daughters were born via c-section, which wasn’t generally done until the latter part of the 19th century. Considering that the first was a medical emergency and the second, while scheduled, would have been necessary given the thinness of my uterus at the time, all I have to say is, “Thank God for modern medicine,” because surely either I or my babies (or both of us) would have died during the process of delivery, had we been forced to follow the natural childbirth process of the 19th century.

 

2) Not having the right to vote: As a woman, I would not have had the right to vote (and, honestly, I would have been little more than my husband’s property). I have to wonder, though, if I would have minded so much about it then as I do now. I mean, having been born in 1977, well after the women’s liberation was under full swing, I’m sure my worldview and cultural mindset is very different from what my female ancestors’ mindsets would have been…at least, I think it is. There were, even at the time, women like Susan B. Anthony and Jane Addams, who fought for equal rights (and suffrage) for women because they believed it to be an important, worthy cause.

The reason I wonder so much whether I would have felt differently had I lived in a different era is because of a conversation I had with my grandmother after I turned 18 and gained the right to vote. She said she never voted in any election, and I asked why. She just shrugged and said, “It’s just not that important.”

That really upset me for a long time…until I realized she was born in 1923, and women didn’t earn the right to vote in the U.S. until 1920. Still, I would think that being in the very first generation to have the right to vote would inspire her to actually take advantage of that right… but maybe not. Maybe it wasn’t important in the culture in which she grew up. And I have to wonder how important it was to Jane Compton Austin and her generation, back in the latter part of the century. 

Still, I never liked the idea of being any man’s property, and I’ve written my character Jane in that way…wanting to be independent – to do things on her own. For now, this post is getting kind of long, so I’ll stop here, and I’ll tell you the remaining three reasons I wouldn’t have liked to live in the 19th century next week. Stay tuned!

Friday Free-for-All: Christmas in July

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It’s too early (and too hot) to start thinking about Christmas, but I’ve always loved the idea of Christmas in July. I know it’s just a sales gimmick to revive mid-year retailing sales slumps, but there’s just something about seeing a man in a Santa suit in the heat and humidity that makes me very happy.

So, when I got the opportunity to be a part of a multi-author Christmas in July promotion, I jumped at the chance. See, I have a couple of Christmas stories out and available for 99 cents. But I’m not the only one who’s involved in this promotion. Eight other authors are offering their Kindle books for only 99 cents, so you have the chance to save up to $10 by getting one now.

Watch this promo video to see all that are available.

See something you like? Just click on the image below to get to the host page. It has all the book covers, book links, and descriptions of each title. July is almost half over. Don’t miss out! :-)

99 cent Kindle books