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June 25 2014 4 25 /06 /June /2014 02:14

My God is Enough for Me

 

     Recently I was challenged by a blog article about whether God is honestly enough for me.  If I went through the fire, would I be burned? Would the flames consume me? Where would my hope be?

 

     I went to the Bible and searched.  I wanted to know, to personalize, the truths there.  I found that God provided for His people in the past.  In Genesis chapter 39, I found Joseph in prison.  All he ever did was follow God, and his brothers sold him into slavery.  In verse 2 of chapter 39, we see that “The Lord as with Joseph, and he prospered,” The household that Joseph was serving in was specifically blessed because of Joseph alone.  Then, just a few verses later, by nothing of Joseph’s own fault, he is in prison. Did the Lord leave him there? No.  In verse 21, we see that the Lord was with Joseph in prison and continued to show him favor.  The Lord did not leave Joseph whatsoever.  Because of Joseph’s faithfulness to God, we see at the end of Genesis, chapter 50 and verse 20, that not only did God show favor to Joseph because he remained faithful, God also redeemed all Joseph’s brothers and gave them food during the famine.

 

     Joseph went through a lot, but God was in control.  Later in the Old Testament, we read the story of Job.  Job was brought down low because of Satan, but Satan could not do anything unless God permitted it.  Job remained faithful, and God restored him.

 

     I looked to Daniel.  He and his people were carried off to a foreign land because his nation sinned.  He was only a teenager, and he followed God, yet he was still taken to Babylon.  It may not have seemed fair to him, but God revealed great things to him.  Daniel continues to praise God, as we see in chapter 2 of his book, verses 19-23.  Because of this, the king of Babylon, who had taken them captive, elevated Daniel in the palace and gave him many gifts.

 

     Because Daniel’s friends also believed in the God of Israel and would not bow to any other, they were thrown into the fiery furnace.  Yet, they walked through it and were not burned, and God was literally with them through it.  The king praised their God and exalted them also.

 

     Most likely, you are familiar with many of these stories.  You may think that they were super people whom God singled out to bestow favor upon.  If that were so, it would make sense that ordinary or sinful people are not especially blessed and highly favored by God, right?

 

     Leading up to Joshua chapter 6, we see that God has promised the Israelites the Promised Land.  In order to claim that land, they must follow God and defeat enemies currently residing in the land.  The first city to conquer on the list was Jericho, a small but very well defended city.  Joshua sends spies out into the city to survey it.  The nearly-caught spies hide in the house of Rahab, the prostitute.  She tells them that she has heard stories of their God and she believes in Him.  Notice that these two descriptions are depicted at the same time: she is a harlot, and she believes in God.  Because of her sacrifice in offering the spies a place to stay, they are not caught by the king of Jericho’s men.  In addition, when the Israelites later defeat Jericho, both she and her family are spared, solely because of her faith and obedience in protecting the spies.  Also, in Matthew chapter 1, we find that Rahab is in the genealogy of Jesus Christ Himself!

 

     In Judges chapter 4, we read the unusual story of a woman named Jael.  She was wise and efficient in her actions.  Singlehandedly, she murdered the very king that was threatening the Israelites, and the land had peace for forty years because of it.

 

     Amos was just a shepherd, yet the Lord gave him visions, spoke to him clearly, and called him by name multiple times.  God told him how He was fed up with Israel’s sin, but He also told Amos how He would restore Israel.

 

     People are just people.  We are made from dust.  We sin.  We cannot follow all of God’s rules perfectly all the time.  God knows this though.  He created us.  He knows that we do not deserve His love, mercy or grace, but He created us wonderfully in His image, and thus He made us to be worthy.  He has taken on flesh and lived among us.  He gets us.  And He redeems us.  He also singles us out and works through us, if we let Him.  (I wrote another whole devotional on this several months ago; if you want it, ask me!)

 

          One of the reasons that the people I previously mentioned were so successful is because they had their perspective right.  God was enough for them.  Joseph continued to do his duties with all his strength, to the glory of God.  The people in charge of him as well as those around him took notice, and he was elevated.  The same is true for Daniel; he was taken captive, but he served God and was elevated in the very kingdom that took his nation as prisoners.  Rahab was a traitor to her city and a prostitute, but she trusted in the God of a foreign nation and was in the ancestry of the Messiah.  Jael was a hostess who knew who the enemy was, had courage to defeat him, and thus was used by God to give forty years of peace to the nation of Israel.  Amos was a simple shepherd who listened to God and was told how Israel would be punished and then redeemed.

 

     Part of getting your perspective right is realizing who you are: what you’re made of and Who is in you.  Genesis 2:7 and 3:19 tells us that we are made from the dust of the ground.  Because of Christ’s death on the cross, Romans 7:4 tells us, we belong to Him so that we might bear fruit to God.  Psalms 34:5 tells us that those who look to the Lord are radiant, and their faces are never covered with shame.  Verse 9 of the same book and chapter tells us that we are his saints, and if we respect and stand in awe of Him, we will lack nothing.  Romans 8: 37 tells us that we are more than conquerors through Christ.

 

     Within our redeemed identity is a newfound purpose.  We are to, as Matthew 28: 19-20 says, go and make disciples, baptize them, and teach them what Jesus commands.  Do not be dismayed when problems, trials, and temptations arise, for they will surely come.  In Isaiah 41:13 God tells us that He is the God who takes hold of our right hand, tells us not to fear, and promises to help us.  Two chapters later in verses 1-3, we are reassured that we have been redeemed, that He will be with us through the water which will not sweep over us, and we will not be burned as we walk through the fire.  The verse specifically states “when” you walk through the waters or fire, not “if”.  The trials aren’t a bad thing, though.  James 1:2-4 tells us to have joy in trials because they produce patience.  Matthew 5: 11-12 says that we are blessed for being insulted because of following Jesus, and that we aren’t the only ones.  1 Peter 4:14 confirms this point, and adds that God is glorified and He rests on us because we have done our part in suffering.  1 Peter 4:19 also adds that we should continue to do good and commit ourselves to our faithful Creator.  Acts 5:41 proves this point; the apostles had been flogged because they preached the Good News, yet once they were released, they left rejoicing “because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” We are anointed, have the Holy Spirit deposited in our hearts, and have God’s seal of ownership on us, according to 2 Corinthians 1: 21-22.

 

     So what’s holding you back from living your life solely for the purpose of glorifying God? Your needs will be met, Matthew 7:7-12 assures us of that.  We are not alone, we have witnesses, advocates, intercessors (including Jesus), and God on our side (see Job 16:19-20 and Isaiah 58:11).  We are guaranteed triumph in 2 Corinthians 2: 14.  We are free to serve Him because He Himself set us free (Galatians 4: 4-7; 5:13-14).  God began a good work in you by saving you from eternal death, cleansing you, and calling you to Him.  He’s not going to forsake you now (Philippians 1:6).  In order to be free from something holding us back, stunting our growth, or keeping us in fear, we have to face it  (Philippians 1:19).  “So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?’” Hebrews 13: 6.

 

     When you submit to God, others watch, and your meekness (A favorite literature teacher of mine called meekness “strength under control”) and purity will be a beauty all their own, just as the women of the Bible were (1 Peter 3: 1-5).

     Follow God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.  If everything is taken away from you, will you keep your perspective that we are created to praise His name? Will God, in those times be enough for you to live for?

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June 18 2014 4 18 /06 /June /2014 02:51

 

     "Full Steam Ahead" by Karen Witemeyer is a standalone book published on June 3, 2014 by Bethany House.

 

     Nicole Renard is the unmarried daughter of a wealthy member of the shipping business.  Her father is shipping rivals with the Jenkins family, who want the heirloom Lafitte dagger from the Renards.  Nicole must marry someone that can be an heir to the Renard shipping, and is prompted to do so when her mother and father are in danger of the Jenkins.  Her plans are foiled by the Jenkins brothers, so she detours and ends up losing money.  Thus, she looks for a job in the small town in which she has landed, and finds a notice for a mad scientist in need of a secretary.

 

     Darius Thornton has much emotional pain resulting from a boiler explosion on one of his ships in which he could not save a little girl.  He has since locked himself away and has studied boilers and tries to develop methods to prevent future explosions.  He can barely read his own handwriting, so he puts out an ad for a male secretary, but receives no answer for months.  Then Nicole shows up, and he does not know if he can handle a woman, but has no other options.  He is drawn to her, and curious of the trouble she seems to be hiding.

 

     This book starts out so exciting! The characters and situations were so unique, and their relationships priceless.  There were several scenes with phenomenal messages that were very encouraging to me as a reader as the characters comforted one another.  This book was not as necessarily "western" as previous ones by this author, but I still really enjoyed it.

 

     Thank you so much to Bethany House for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review.  These are my honest opinions in this review; I was not required to give a positive review.

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June 11 2014 4 11 /06 /June /2014 02:48

 

     "Stuck Together" is the third and final book in the "Trouble in Texas" series by Mary Connealy and published by Bethany House.  It was released on June 3, 2014.  The first two books in the series are "Swept Away      " and "Fired Up      ".

 

     This book picks up where the other two left off, so I think it would make more sense to read the first two before reading this one.  Vince Yates comes from a broken home, and dislikes his father, but especially so when his father rides into Broken Wheel and dumps his mentally challenged mother on Vince and scrams.  Vince has more on his hands than ever before, especially trying to handle Tina Cahill being the most attractive and last single girl, aside from his sister, left in Broken Wheel.

 

     Tina Cahill thinks Vince Yates is the most handsome and the most annoying person in Broken Wheel, and has major sympathy when his mother is left in town with him, so she comes alongside him and helps out.  Will they remain the last two single people in town? Or will they overcome their differences and become stuck together?

 

 

     I thought that this book was a fairly good read.  It was somewhat lighthearted, but because of the tragedy of his mother's sickness, it lent an emotional depth to Vince's character, and made him and his gruffness more understandable.  I would recommend this book; it was a good ending to the series.

     Thank you so much to Bethany House and Net Galley for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review.  All opinions are my own.

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June 4 2014 4 04 /06 /June /2014 03:01

 

     "Until I Found You" by Victoria Bylin is published by Bethany House on April 29, 2014.  It is a stand-alone book, and my first from this author.

 

     When Kate Darby's grandmother Leona has a stroke, Kate drops everything to help.  She rushes out of her job in LA, taking a leave, and almost flies off a cliff on her way to prepare her grandmother's house while Leona is still in the hospital.  Not a firm believer in God, Kate utters a prayer to a God that she hopes is listening.

 

     Nick does not expect to see a car hanging off a cliff when he turns along the mountainous roads, and swerves to help.  He meets Kate and is enthralled by her, but had made himself a promise that he would not date anyone for a year because of his past and recent conversion to Christ.

 

     I found this book just a little hard to get into, because it is told from Leona, Kate, and Nick's point of view.  The characters, for me, were so hard to become emotionally involved with and relate to, but that may have just been me.  The plot is hectic and the circumstances almost at the point of being unbelievable.  I probably would not read this again or recommend it.

 

     Thank you so much to Net Galley and Bethany House for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.  All opinions are my own.

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May 28 2014 4 28 /05 /May /2014 01:26

 

     "Somebody Like You" by Beth Vogt is published by Howard publishing on May 13, 2014.  It is a stand-alone novel.

     Haley Ames is a new widow and pregnant.  Her husband, Sam Ames, was killed in Afghanistan before she had the chance to tell him about their baby.  She grieves, and is stunned when Sam shows up on her doorstep.

     Stephen Ames has not been close to his identical twin brother since high school, so when he hears of his brother's death, he seeks out his twin's widow for some closure on the last years of his life.  Unfortunately, she mistakes him for her dead husband and holds him at gunpoint.

     I really enjoyed this book, more than I thought I would.  I have read everything by this author, so I was excited about this book, until I read the plot.  The plot did not really intrigue me, so I stalled in reading it.  When I started it, however, I was drawn in as always by this author.  The characters really had an emotional depth unlike any other.  Haley and Stephen were so relatable in their hurts and struggles.  The plot was definitely unique, but not in a bad way.  I sincerely enjoyed this book; it way exceeded my expectations.

     Thank you so much to Net Galley and Howard publishers for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review.  All opinions are my own.

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May 21 2014 4 21 /05 /May /2014 02:44

 

     Taken from Kylie Bisutti's book "I'm No Angel", this short daily devotional is published by Tyndale House.  It has a beautiful cover in my opinion: simple, pink, and sporty yet elegant.  It is only 65 pages, so the portions every day are small, but still they are profound and humbling.  I really like that it focuses on your relationship with God and how to improve your inner beauty.  The book itself is pocket-size in paperback, or currently free on Kindle, at the time this post was written.  Kylie Bisutti was a Victoria's Secret Angel model, until she decided to become a role model and make it a goal to live out her life as a Proverbs 31 wife and woman.  I read her autobiography when it was free on Kindle, and really, really enjoyed it.  Mrs. Bisutti is down to earth and honest, and is not telling her story just to condemn or make money, but to show other girls where beauty comes from and encourages them to grow in their faith. 

 

     Thank you so much to Tyndale House for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review.  I really enjoyed it; the simplicity and beauty of both the book and the love of God was magnificent.  I would love to see more from this author! All opinions are my own.

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May 14 2014 4 14 /05 /May /2014 23:59

 

     Body and Soul

 "Body and Soul" was written by Bethany Hamilton by HarperCollins Publishing.

This book is a great way to inspire girls to want to live a better lifestyle, and to be strong in the faith, body and health.  It encourages them to build confidence and think positively of themselves.  The author, Bethany Hamilton, is a wonderful role model herself.  As a shark-attack survivor, Bethany has one arm and a positive attitude. Hers is a story of determination and faith. 

  I think this book is a great guide to a "fit, fun and fabulous life" ( see cover) full of faith.  Its pages holds a step-by-step guide to building confidence, plus illustrated workouts and recipes for healthy, delicious recipes.  

Overall, I think this is an inspiring  book that is full of helpful tips and challenges, beautifully written by an inspiring author.  I like this book because it inspired me to reach for my goals, think positively, build confidence in myself and eat healthier.  It makes me feel better about myself, inside and out. 

Thank you to the Booklook Bloggers program and HarperCollins Publishing for giving me a copy of this book to review.  All opinions are my own, and honest.  I was not paid to give a positive review.

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May 7 2014 4 07 /05 /May /2014 01:57

 

     "Meant to Be Mine" by Becky Wade is the second book in the Porter Family series, the sequel to "Undeniably Yours      ". It was pulished by Bethany House on April 29, 2014.

 

     Celia Park has had a crush on Ty Porter since high school, when she moved to Holley, Texas.  After college they happen to reunite when her friend takes her to watch him bull-riding in LA. They hook up and hang out for the next four days, until Ty impulsively asks her to marry him.  She agrees, but come morning, he remembers that he's actually in love with a girl in Texas, and leaves. For the next five and a half years, he never contacts her, neither of them reaches towards a divorce, and Celia never tells him about their five year old, Disney princess crazed daughter Addie.

 

     Well, five and a half years later, Ty rides by the place in LA where the impromptu wedding occurred, and gets in touch with her.  And, quite frankly, that's where their story begins.  Or rather, re-begins.

 

     I absolutely love this book and this author.  I have an annual Valentine's Day tradition of re-reading her first book, "My Stubborn Heart", and I thought she could not one-up "Undeniably Yours".  Boy was I wrong.  I cannot wait for the next book!  The characters were relatable and emotionally understandable.  The setting and dialogue were as real as ever, and the plot was sweet and kept me up until the wee hours of the morning, but it was worth almost falling asleep standing up the next day! Addie was as cute as she could be, and secondary characters like Celia's surfer uncle were involved in the storyline.

 

     Thank you to Bethany House for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and am excited for the rest of the series.  All opinions are my own.

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April 30 2014 4 30 /04 /April /2014 00:26

   

 

     "Plots and Pans" is written by Kelly Eileen Hake, daughter of Cathy Marie Hake.  It is a stand-alone book and was published on April 1, 2014 by Barbour Publishers.

 

     Jessalyn Culpepper has been wounded in her past when her ranching father sent her away from their Texas homestead to an English boarding school, in hopes that she would become a fine young lady like her late mother was.  Jessalyn constantly misbehaves and wants desperately to go home; when her father dies, she makes that trip.

 

     Tucker Carmichael has worked on the Culpepper's land for a least half a decade.  When his boss dies, he inherits an unexpected portion of the land, alongside Ed, the boss's son and Jessalyn's brother.  When she returns one night, he is surprised to see how much she has grown, but is wary of giving her any jobs on the land because he wants to protect her.  She continues rebelling against the rules, and because her brother left on a business trip, he's put in charge of her.

 

     This book reminded me of "Fancy Pants" by Cathy Marie Hake in some ways, so I would not recommend reading the two back-to-back or you may get confused.  Overall, though, this was a decent story.  I really enjoyed the background information on Jess; it helped me feel her pain and understand her.  Tucker was a lot shadier on how he came to work with the Culpeppers and his family background and upbringing, but still was a fairly solid character.  The plot was mainly about the characters finding themselves and each other, and while that is good and I did not put it down, it's not something so magnificent I would read it again.  It begins slowly but remains pretty steady throughout the book, except towards the end where the resolution super-speeds up to the closing.  The setting was your typical Western ranch, but it and the dialogue were good.  I would recommend this book as a simple yet heartfelt read.

 

     Thank you so much to Net Galley and Barbour Publishers for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review.  All opinions are my own.

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April 23 2014 4 23 /04 /April /2014 23:48

 

     "Caught it the Middle" by Regina Jennings was published by Bethany House on April 1, 2014.  It is the third book in the "Ladies of Caldwell County" series, with the first being "Sixteen Acres and a Bride", and the second being "Love in the Balance".  I read "Sixteen Acres and a Bride", and thoroughly enjoyed it, and own the second in the series but have yet to read it.  Both the first and the third would be good as stand-alones, although there are small details that tie the stories together and add additional background information.

 

     Anne Tillerton is a widow of an abusive husband.  She ditched dresses and the society that turned their faces away in her distress to become a buffalo hunter with a group of Indians and cowboys.  On her way into town to fetch a new cook for the group, the cook skips town and leaves Anne her son Sammy.  Anne is dumbfounded as to what to do, but ends up turning to Nick Lovelace, her friend Molly's (from "Love in the Balance") brother that she became reacquainted with on the train into town.

 

     Nickolas Lovelace knows that his reputation as railroad businessman running for office will be damaged if he helps his sister's friend out, but how can he resist when she obviously has no idea what to do with a baby?

 

     This story has several similarities to "Fair Play" by Deeanne Gist, which releases May 6: woman of unusual occupation teams up with high-faultin' man to save abandoned baby.  For me, it was somewhat difficult to grow attached to the characters, because I felt as if I had already been through their stories.  Granted, "Fair Play" isn't even out yet, so it's really 'not fair' for me to make this point. 

 

     Anne and Sammy were still charming to me, but I did not care for Nick.  The reason that Anne and Sammy tugged on my heartstrings was because of their backgrounds and experiences in life (obviously there's less of that for Sammy, because he's a baby, but he still had a hard life).  I understood why they reacted as they did, whether or not I agreed with it.  As for Nick, I just did not care for him.  He seemed too gullible and foolish, and rash on making decisions.  The setting was quaint, but nothing that would alone draw me into the book.  It was kind of TV-ish, if you know what I mean.  It seemed just like I called it: a setting, not a way of life, an interesting culture, or anything intriguing; it was just a setting waiting for the director to change it for the next scene.  The plot would have been better if characters such as Nick and several secondary characters had been stronger.  The resolution came too quickly and neatly for my taste; again, it was if it was on TV.

 

     Thank you to Bethany House publishers for letting me read and review this book.  I would recommend it because it was a sweet story, and would make for a quick read on a summer day. 

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