Friday, October 25, 2013

The Wayfinding Bible NLT

The Wayfinding Bible- Helping You Navigate God's Word in the New Living Translation is a newly published theme bible from Tyndale.  This aviation- travel themed bible features the easy to understand, modern NLT.  This makes sense as this bible is targeted mainly for new bible readers or those who are largely unfamiliar with the bible. I have seen far too many beginner bibles published in hard to read KJV or with the NKJV.  It is about time that a starter bible is appropriately presented in the faithful yet clear NLT.

As far as the graphics- the minimalist cover depicts a modern graphic image to appeal today's on the go modern generation. Integrating the ever popular travel or tourist theme- this bible designates or prioritizes books and passages in order of importance by using three travel themed classifications: flyover, direct and scenic routes.  This helps the reader to get an optimized view of the bible- ranging from a simpler broad flyover perspective or a more in-depth scenic perspective.  For those who find a traditional bible overwhelming this niche idea is one solution to navigating the bible. Additionally, full color, bold graphics, easy to read font and color photographs add greater visual appeal to draw the reader to the bible text. Nevertheless  I additional photographs and color graphics would make this bible even better.  On the down side, there are many pages with just white space and text only and no graphics whatsoever; many readers are likely to just skip over chunks of scripture. This might encourage new readers especially to skip over large parts of the bible as seemingly unimportant.

 For those new to the bible entirely, the "flyover" reading plan will give a quick and greater overall perspective without overwhelming the reader.  For those who want a more complete study, the direct approach is best.  For those who want even greater depth, and are willing to devote more time, the scenic route gives a better experience. I think all three options are good as they serve different purposes.  Just like a map or GPS, the bible always points you to your next reading depending on your navigation choice- flyover, direct or scenic. It gives the reader a glimpse ahead.  For new bible readers, the text directs you to a specific page number primarily in addition to the bible passage reference. And as with any travel experience there are stopovers such as sidetrips and other points of interest to capture your attention for an even greater experience.

Helpful unique bible features include the "itinerary", "points of interest" and "side trips", which are additional resources that bible students and readers can return to as a reference for important topics about Christian life, bible concepts and even theology.  The "thru-hike" is similar to a yearly bible reading plan and may prove to be useful for regimented individuals who prefer a rigid reading plan. Overall this bible can be adapted to a number of reading styles and preferences- depending on your time and dedication-giving it a broad appeal without leaving anyone out.  In other bibles, these additional features would either be omitted or would simply be relegated to an appendix, but in keeping with the travel theme these extra helps are prioritized and depicted in a simple to understand analogy. And for those readers  experienced with reading the bible- this new themed bible offers a refreshing new perspective to reinvigorate your bible reading.  As a bible reader, the only thing I did not prefer was the fact that the routes were labeled by a page number.  I believe a specific bible reference would have been more appropriate. The three varied colored navigation arrows with page numbers don't make as much sense intuitively for anyone who is familiar with the bible. Having the verse or passage in the label instead of a page number would make more sense. This proprietary colored arrow system identified by page numbers rather than by verse, makes this study strategy difficulty to adapt to other bibles.  It would be interesting to see this bible published with an actual "itinerary" styled foldable map with just the three reading plans alone so that the reader could refer to the separate map while reading the bible along side.  I have been a bible reader for over twenty years- even before my college days.  This new bible is now among one of my favorites that I will use for my own devotional readings and study. As a blogger for Tyndale I received this bible for the purpose of writing this review.

Wayfinding Bible Trailer

Choosing a Bible Version

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Messiah: Origin - Mark Arey, Kai Carpenter, Matt Dorff

The new graphic novel, Messiah: Origin - Mark Arey, Kai Carpenter, Matt Dorff is the newest edition by the producers of the graphic novel, Revelation. This comic- styled graphic novel covers the early life of Jesus with beautiful, stylized artwork.  Unlike other comic book adaptions of the bible, this work is not a paraphrase, but includes word for word actual translated bible text.  The strength of this graphic novel is that not only does it tell the bible account in pictoral form, but actual bible text is used rather than a simplified summary or paraphrase.  This book takes scripture to a new level with its poignant, emotional images together with the actual bible account of Jesus' early years. This is not simply a fact by fact story telling of the early life of Jesus.  This book visually depicts the first chapter of the gospel account of John, as retold in the "prologue".  Anyone who has ever read this account knows that John 1:1-18 is usually left out of traditional bible story books, but is beautifully portrayed here in this graphic novel.  An abstract spiritual account is reinforced with imaginative artwork alongside the text.  This book is both a work of art and a spiritually uplifting inspirational account bringing to life the biblical account of Jesus' first years before public ministry began. For those who meditate on the bible's truths- this is a work that can be integrated in prayer and personal bible study.  The graphic liberties taken by the artists portray Jesus and the other biblical heroes in a more realistic yet theatrical way than traditional cartoon art of Jesus.  With the rough, quick brush strokes, the artistic depictions seem more real than the typical cartoonish illustrations you see in other illustrated bibles or comic reproductions. This book is not simply an attempt to "dumb down" the bible to make it appealing for kids or teens or young adults.  This is a serious piece of work written for anyone of any age, who wants a deeper connection with the bible.

 The only downside- if I had to name a downside to this book is that it is so limited- in that it only covers up to the point of Jesus' baptism.  It almost seems incomplete in the sense that it only focuses on the early years. What would make this even better is if it included the entire account of Jesus' life in one volume.  The title page indicates that this book is "Volume !" which is not indicated on the actual cover of this book.  I believe that the minimalist title "origin" makes it clear enough that this graphic novel only covers Jesus' early years.  I anticipate that other editions will be completed sometime in the future just as with any serial comic book series or graphic novel series.  The fact that Revelation was actually the first book published by the writers may seem out of order or confusing to some readers.  Nevertheless as with the ever popular Star Wars movies- the movies or stories were produced out of order starting with the most recent chronologically then later newer editions covered the pre-quell era.  Personally I like everything in one single volume and don't like to read or watch anything that comes in multiple episodes, volumes or parts.  As a blogger for booksneeze I received this book published by Zondervan publishers.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Take Time to be Holy by Samuel Logan Brengle

Take Time to be Holy by Samuel Logan Brengle, edited by Bob Hostetler is a new pocket sized 365 day daily devotional book.  Despite its small size, it contains hefty spiritual food with the classic inspirational  daily tid-bits featuring the writings of Samuel Logan Brengle of the Salvation Army.

Unlike other niche devotional books in the saturated devotional genre- these writings will have a broad appeal to all readers without alienating any socio-economic sector.  The devotionals are timeless- not dated in contrast to an ever-growing number of devotional books whose audience is
either women or younger readers.  The modern pop culture and media references, which serve to alienate many older readers or less prosperous readers- are left out of this volume, thankfully. This book will not disappoint you when you are expecting encouragement in times of distress or even everyday life. This book helps those who are enduring really difficult times, to endure and persevere as well as those facing day to day life.   But, if you find you are bellyaching because you burned your husband's dinner, or the grass stain won't come out of the soccer uniform, or if missed an appointment for your pedicure, or your favorite coach bag sold out before you reached the mall, then this book might not hold your attention as this author does not commiserate with your trivial issues.  What you need is a fluffy, superficial, condescending, feel- good, women's devotional book with an image of an overpriced latte or a photo of a quaint Martha Stuart-esque vase of garden blooms. You won't find daily devotionals focused on spilled latte, long black Friday lines, or finding time to tote kids to soccer or cracked iphone screen related woes.  The anecdotes and stories are either based on scripture or are more classic in nature.  At most a personal anecdote takes 2 or 3 sentences- and is usually broad enough as to not alienate any readers.  For example, Brengle uses a brief one liner personal anecdote as a springboard to communicate a spiritual truth when he explains "When my friend in New York sails for Liverpool, how do I know that he has arrived safely? I know it by the cablegram he sends back to me", and likewise he is aware of the presence of Jesus by the Holy Spirit sent to all believers.  As can be seen in the daily entry- the anecdote is quick and to the point.  Unlike many modern devotional writers, the author does not drone on an on for paragraphs, about a personal anecdote, such as a family vacation, dinnertime stress, blackfriday shopping stress or some other "stress" that simply serves to reinforce that the reader's circumstances may be less than ideal by comparison. 

As with other modern devotional books, this book is simple and easy to read.  Each daily devotional is one small page with a few very short paragraphs around a verse and a theme.  This quick approach makes this book easy even for a busy lifestyle or for those too overwhelmed or burdened to devote to a more lengthy devotional.  Topics include faith, Christian life and lifestyle and other timeless topics that still hold true today as they did in bible times as well as the 1800s and early 1900s of Brengle's lifetime.  The padded cover and the format of this book is peaceful and simple, and suitable for a bedside table or even a purse. That pages are thick and sturdy suitable too stand up to daily use.I found this cover to be reminiscent of the ever popular modern classic "Jesus Calling" published by Thomas Nelson.  As a blogger for Tydale I received a copy of this book for the purpose of writing this review. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Judas Goat by Perry Stone

With its vivid, embossed cover depicting the close up of two weathered, rough horns, The Judas Goat is a newly published by Perry Stone.  This timely book focuses on betrayal. This book delivers the truths of the gospel from the perspective of the problem of betrayal- something that many, if not all readers, are familiar with in at least one area of life.  As mentioned, betrayal by enemies is to be expected, but to be betrayed by those who are close- is extremely painful, and can sap the strength of anyone- emotionally, physically and spiritually. Whether you have been betrayed by an enemy, coworker, relative or even your church- this book is for you.

This inclusive book is well rounded, starting with a spiritual and historical background in the bible of betrayal.  The weary,  apathetic, angry reader will find spiritual motivation and nourishment from Stone's words.  Written for a modern generation, the author takes a subject close to home for many readers, and addresses it - empowering even the most angry and apathetic of readers into action and faith.

Not many readers- secular and religious alike, may realize that the bible has an abundance of wisdom, stories and anecdotes about betrayal.  Most of the biblical heroes have been victims of betrayal as well and scripture has much to teach everyone about the facts of betrayal and how to use it.  Stone gleans every bit of biblical truth as well as sociological information about the concept of betrayal for the reader to get a better grip on understanding betrayal and facing it in day to day life. There are important lessons- difficult, yet empowering at the same time- about forgiveness and sin.  This is not a book that is simply written to tickle the ears of its listeners to use Paul's New Testament terminology. This book will give the reader insight into betrayal and the strategy of the Judas Goat- and how betrayal works. The author educates the reader into the subtle strategies of Satan that are subtle and destructive. Yet this book doesn't stop there as it also covers the topics of confession and restoration. This is not a self help book but rather a life changing book.  It is an entire curriculum and life changing book combined into one volume.

As a blogger for the Booketeria I received this book published by Charisma House for the purpose of writing this review.

YOUTUBE trailer

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Adventure Bible Storybook written by Catherine DeVries

The Adventure Bible Storybook written by Catherine DeVries and  illustrated by Jim Madsen is a newly published book of bible stories for young children.  Having read many children's bible storybooks, I feel this new edition stands out most for its beautiful full color illustrations and the audio CDs. There are many children's bibles and bible storybooks on the market.  Some children's bible story books consist of simply drawn washed out, pastel cartoons or line cartoons.  This book contains richly colored modern artwork which will capture the attention of children of all ages.  As seen with many bible storybooks for young children, the stories in this volume are simplified, and brief.  While they are based on actual  bible stories, they are  paraphrased.  Narrative dialog is added to make it read more like a story. The oversimplification and story telling style makes it appropriate for very young children.  Yet this is a bible storybook that children will eventually outgrow as they grow older, and in need of greater spiritual fuel- in contrast to an actual bible adapted for children.

 Also contained with this deluxe set are two disks of audio CDs containing the text of the bible stories. The stories are complete with wonderful sound effects and music. It is not simply a reading of text alone. This reinforces that material making it more convenient and as well as entertaining with multimedia.  My seven year old enjoyed following along with the bible storybook and audio cd at the same time.  In fact this is a good learning tool.  This learning style is used in schools as well and my child naturally took to  following the CD and book without any instruction.  This element of interaction encourages young children in a new way to read the or in this case, listen to stories of the bible.  Basically you can take this CD and put it in any computer or CD player for children of all ages to hear the bible stories.

 Strict bible purists may not appreciate the fact that actual bible scripture is not used in this bible story book. Some liberties are taken with the narratives t make them more child friendly.  And some theological issues are raised for example in the story where Jesus is baptized, the "Adventure Discovery" states that some people are baptized as babies.  While this is in align with Catholic or Lutheran theology and sacrament rituals, this is inconsistent with biblical teaching.  This is enough to alienate parents and educators who believe strictly in bible teaching.  Perhaps this is an attempt at the ecumenical movement to make this bible storybook more inclusive to mainstream denominations- but in doing so it waters down the truth.

 For each story, a corresponding bible passage is referenced but the actual bible text passage is not included. Yet there is a memory verse at the end of each story.  The small scale of the book makes it a perfect size for smaller hands.  The artwork is vivid and poignant.  In contrast to the simplistic stories- the artwork for Jesus on the cross is graphic and powerful.  The unique artistic use of perspective communicates the powerful message.  What an unexpected surprise in a children's bible. Nevertheless this bible story book is more appropriate to by read by parents and adults to younger children.  Overall, this bible is a good choice for its powerful artwork and its bible stories.  For theological purists, this may not be the best choice for their children as the message of scripture is watered down a bit for children. As a blogger for Booksneeze I received this book published by Thomas Nelson for the purpose of writing this review. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What Are You Afraid Of by Dr. David Jeremiah

What Are You Afraid Of is bestselling author & speaker, Dr. David Jeremiah's timely and newest book addressing modern society's greatest fears.  In a spiraling downward economy of job loss and foreclosure, with cancer, depression and illness on the rise, Dr. Jeremiah reassures the reader that in all his years as a pastor, studying the bible and ministering to people, he has "yet to find a fear for which God does not have an answer.  And the reason is simple: God Himself is the answer to all our fears". (page xii)

Systematically, Jeremiah addresses the most common fears one by one: disaster, disease, debt, defeat, loneliness, rejection, danger, depression, death and even fears of God. The prosperity gospel and false prosperity teaching have failed countless people as they continue to suffer and have no answers.  The modern phenomenon of  prosperity teaching does not address the problems that believers really face and many are left unprepared and abandoned to face life's challenges.  The author addresses the shortcomings and dangers of the false incomplete teachings of the prosperity message. It is as if Dr. Jeremiah has to come to the rescue of a mislead society, and redirect them to God's promises that have been long forgotten in the wake of modern false doctrines and values.

This book will not disappoint you when you are expecting encouragement in times of severe distress. This book specifically helps those who are enduring really difficult times, to endure and persevere. The author address real issues- job loss, terminal illness, grief and loss. This book is designed to help those who are suffering from extreme circumstances.   If you are bellyaching because you burned your husband's dinner, or the grass stain won't come out of the soccer uniform, or if missed an appointment for your pedicure, or your favorite coach bag sold out before you reached the mall, then this book isn't for you.  What you need is a fluffy, superficial, condescending, feel- good, women's devotional book with an image of an overpriced latte or a photo of a quaint Martha Stuart-esque vase of garden blooms. If you feel that your wealth and status and health are indicators of your spiritual faith or obediance then prepare to have your narrow world view challenged.  But, if you truly suffer from life's heartaches, and are overwhelmed with uncertainty and anxiety then this book with its piercing, fast paced, red and bright motion blurred cover is for you.

Jeremiah disseminates truth in an easy to understand style that communicates to every reader. He gleans every story about extreme suffering and faith from the bible from the old testament and even the new- showing how the God's interventions are just as applicable to each and every reader. I can not say enough how this book is written for those in desperate need.  This book is worth reading twice and maybe even three times.  It is worthy of a bedside table, or to keep in your car for easy access right next to the bible. Get out your highlighter, your pen and post it notes- as you will certainly want to mark up important passages, quotes and biblical truths from this book.  After reading this book, and really meditating on the biblical truths communicated, one can feel a renewed sense of empowerment to live a selfless life style.  Even apathetic readers who have given up hope may even find motivation to persevere. I think every Christian )and even secular readers) should read this book.  If you are looking for bible based motivation and a relief while enduring extreme dire circumstances in a heartless world that centers in  materialism, selfish ambition and competition, then this book is perfect.

This book is the perfect spiritual salve for those experiencing intense pain and grief!!!  This is a book to read and return to- it won't collect dust on a book shelf. As a blogger for Tyndale I received this book for the purpose of writing this review.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

From Death to Life

The Physiology and Spirituality of a Zombie

Decaying, putrefied flesh, dead necrotic tissue, dangling gangrene infested limbs.... glassy, foggy lifeless orbits, devoid of life- a cold, pungent corpse is apparently is re-animated by an unknown force or biological drive.......

The undead, otherwise known as zombies, are everywhere in popular culture: books, television, and movies.  But, you need not go to the theater to see the living dead- they are closer than you realize...... 

The introduction of tainted biological fluid must contaminate the host victim.  Most commonly the initial contamination is introduced by means of a flesh wound such as that which may come from a bite or scratch from a infected individual.  Contamination  rarely occurs in the healthcare setting, but when it does it is usually  inadvertently through a needle stick or contact with bodily fluids during lab testing.  As with any virus or contagious illness, there is a period of incubation in which the victim appears asymptomatic.  Nevertheless, while the person may feel physically healthy on the outside, the contagion works behind the scenes at the cellular level creating havoc in the body's systems.

The very first initial symptom appears to be an elevated temperature as the body attempts to fight off infection. This is reflected in a fever- mild at first. The fever does not respond to medication.  Lymph glands may be swollen and  tender to the touch.  Ironically, though the body gives the appearance of  having a cold or flu, instead of the usual fatigue and lethargy that accompanies the flu, the individual may experience an increase in energy.  The metabolism is elevated as the thyroid works harder to fight the illness. Blood pressure increases as well as the heart rate.  Respiration becomes more rapid. The body's  attempt to thwart the contagion is unsuccessful.   This may give the affected individual an initial burst of energy, deceptively it may appear as if the patient is on the recovery as the metabolism, thyroid and immune system  work in overdrive.  Not long after the early stages of infection, the victim will exhibit symptoms similar to hyperthyroidism.  This will include increased appetite, anxiety, mild aggression, sleeplessness and intolerance to heat.  The mixed set of symptoms that follow the initial fever may mask the extent of internal damage caused by the contagion and often lead to a false diagnosis.

As the contagion   circulates within the bloodstream, all body organs and tissues are eventually affected, from the cellular level to the organ systems.  As the infection spreads, the effect on rapidly dividing cells is the first obvious sign.  Similar to the effects of radiation sickness or chemotherapy  in with the invading contaminant indiscriminately attacks the rapidly regenerating cells: healthy and non healthy alike, the same is true of the contagion. The rapidly dividing cells  of the scalp, mucus membranes and nerves, are the first to succumb to the infection as it begins its indiscriminately attack all cells in a similar way.  Hair will become brittle, thin, dull and some loss of hair will occur. Skin cells will become dry, raw and irritated.  Skin will become irritated, cracked and dry.   Mucus membranes lining the mouth, esophagus and stomach will become irritated, raw and slough off- causing irritation and tenderness  at first, and thereafter extreme gastrointestinal discomfort and bleeding.  As the body systems are affected and subsequently destroyed, pain and fatigue will set in.  Nerves will be affected in a similar fashion as ALS.  As the nerves progressively become damaged and die, loss of function is experienced.  This is first observed as a heightened sensitivity in the form of pain, tingling, involuntary twitches and numbness.  As nerves completely die, there is a loss of feeling altogether.  Yet, as opposed to ALS or traditional paralysis from CNS injury, the dying cells and cell tissue actually physically die- they experience cell death and become necrotic- resulting in furthering the infections.  As the body organs and fluids becomes septic, and the toxicity spreads throughout the body,  the body tissues decay giving the characteristic of the typical sterotypical zombie appearance: mottled necrotic skin that is easily bruised, injured and infected.  Internally, the organs cease to function as the cells become necrotic and  die.  Internal bleeding occurs throughout the body and the old, putrefied, congealed, thick, sludge-like black blood and dead cells is eliminated by the body from every orifice imaginable as wastes.  The slick, putrefied mix of wastes gives the zombie its characteristic decayed odor and disheveled, unclean appearance.

Needless to say, the brain does not escape damage from infection.  Apparently the higher functions of the brain are the first to experience the effects of impairment.  Initially the mental impairment is subtle.  Complete memory loss and purposeful  thought is eventually lost as the brain tissue becomes necrotic and shrinks.  Eventually all intentional and purposeful activity and thought is gone, leaving only a fragment of the functioning hind brain.  Mentally the person's capacity is  analogous to a persistent vegetative state, yet the body is inexplicably  animated and continues to physically function by minimum instinct and nerve impulses similar to that exhibited by lower life forms.  As a result, the individual is automated only by a basic instinct and basic physical sparks of electrical impulses.  Clinically and biologically, the person may be defined as alive simply because the brain is functioning at the most basic level.  Nevertheless, it might be argued that such an individual is legally dead in that  brain death has occurred in that there is no possibility of recovery and there is no purposeful brain activity.  An EKG most likely would reveal a flat line. Obviously putrefaction and contamination of the body's organs renders them useless for the purpose of donation.  The senseless aggression and bestial behavior makes the infected a danger to society, and therefore require containment.  The time line of the progression of the illness varies. 

Spirituality of the Living Dead:

A necrotic, shrunken brain- filled with useless, putrefied nonfunctioning brain matter. A stinking mush of dead cells and puss- incapable of thought whatsoever.  Nerve synapses are dead and destroyed.  The head is simply a shell that houses a walnut sized brain stem- functioning with minimal  activity.  Movement is the product of purposeless reflexes, and synaptic pulses guided by basic instinct.  As far as a mind- anything that resembled a personality is long gone.  Just as the body eventually deteriorates, the mind also disintegrates.  As far as the spirit?  The soul?  That no longer exists either.

An argument can be made that the concept of the living dead is nothing new. In fact there are a number of references to the living dead in the bible. A passage from Ephesians, a new testament book written by Paul, the apostle, states  "As for you, don't you remember how you used to exist? Corpses, dead in life, buried by transgressions, wandering the course of this perverse world.  You were the offspring of the prince of the power of the air- oh, how he owned you, just as he still controls those living in disobedience.  I'm not talking about outsiders alone; we were all guilty of falling headlong for the persuasive passions of this world; we all have had our fill of indulging the flesh and mind, obeying  impulses to follow perverse thoughts motivated by dark powers.  As a result, our natural inclinations led us to be children of wrath, just like the rest of human kind."  Ephesians 2: 1-3 (the Voice NT).

 Zombies- the living dead:  A body, reanimated, disgusting, grotesque and barbaric- alive yet devoid of the essential part that makes it human.  I don't know who hasn't heard of zombies- they are the subject of many horror movies. But to see one of these creatures, there was a time that all I needed to do was look in the mirror. Ironically I was no different from the grotesque manifestations that I would watch in my television screen- I too was among the undead- physically alive, walking, breathing, yet dead in spirit.

ONE FINAL WORD (about Zombies) 

in·ac·ces·si·ble  defined as not accessible, unable to be reached or understood.

An image from my past flashes  across my  mind as I am transported back in time- almost thirty years earlier. I remember tiptoeing and pulling down from the top shelf- a larger sized, dusty, forbidden, neglected volume,  the bible.  Curious, I opened the book and read.

Contrary to the commonly held stereotypes that the bible is too difficult to read and  irrelevant in modern society - the words were clear, easy to grasp and eye opening.  I wondered to myself as to why this book was apparently hidden in the bookshelf, squeezed between other books and out of my reach. I wondered why no one told me about this book, or its message.  It is incredible how many households have a copy of this life changing book, yet it simply collects dust on a book shelf unread.  Countless people, simply dismiss this life changing book with hardened  hearts are hardened, just like the listeners in Jesus’ day whose closed ears and closed hearts could not understand the parables that Jesus shared.  On that day, looking back, I compare myself to the parable of the seed that fell upon the footpath and quickly snatched away by the birds or chocked by thorns and weeds in Matthew 13:4.  The message was lost to me.

That day, I was not saved. That day,  I did not receive the Good News.  I did not learn about eternal life or God's love and grace.   The seeds were quickly snatched away, like the seeds on the hard, barren footpath.   I slowly closed the bible in despair- placing it carefully back on the shelf, feeling dejected.... dismissing it as yet another book filled with fables and fairy tales, returning to my life as usual saying to myself, thinking that if it were true, then certainly someone would have told me about it. 

That was not my day of salvation.  It was not to come for a number of years.  Needless to say, I admit I ended up swiping that bible, and taking it for my own use years later.  And I still have it to this day. 
Yes, it is true, I used to be among the living dead, until the day I was saved


Saved from death
Fast forward a few years to the day when I made an important decision that changed my life. That day started like any other day. It is no understatement to say I had some difficult and awkward years when I was young. .During my teenaged years, my physical and social deficits became more pronounced at a most inopportune time of life when appearance and social skills are paramount for normal positive social interaction. As I matured, my physical appearance embarrassed me to such an extent that I lived in a constant state of abject discomfort and anxiety that someone would tease me. Graceless, indelicate and overgrown, I was isolated and frequently tormented by my peers. I was made fun of, humiliated and embarrassed. While these problems may pale in comparison to the world’s social injustices and inequities, this was my life and my world! It was all that mattered to me at the time in my own selfish, self- centered world.

Outside I was quiet, yet within I was sad, angry, bitter and jealous. Every night I would cry myself to sleep. I could pass half the night awake in bed feeling sorry for myself. In my dreams I lived out detailed fantasies of revenge. I doubted that even God existed because if He really did, I was sure that I had been abandoned by God.

The irony is that despite the anger and jealous feelings I harbored within, I deluded myself into thinking I was morally superior. In fact I believed everyone else had wronged me in my own mind. I was so puffed up with pride about my own goodness when I compared myself with all those other “degenerates” in school that dated, went to dances, listened to music or dressed in the latest trends.  One day my misery came to an end. I vaguely recall a girl who crossed my path and befriended me. We talked, or rather she talked, and I “listened” during lunch hour in the cafeteria. I was actually more engrossed in inhaling my fries and finishing off my burger, than listening to her. She could not have missed my apathy. She dutifully and in a perfunctory manner went over, laboriously page by page, a small booklet of which I barely glanced indifferently. But one statement of all the others stood out: she called me a sinner- as she explained how everyone was a sinner and that no one was righteous in God’s eyes. I immediately took offense. How dare she insinuate that I was a sinner! She did not know who she was speaking to, obviously. Nor could she know about my sufferings and misery. As far as I was concerned I never sinned!
Looking back I remember the parable told by Jesus about how hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, and that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.  A more formidable obstacle comes to mind- pride and self righteousness! How much easier it is for a camel to go through an eye of a needle than a self righteous, stubborn, self pitying young girl  to humble herself spiritually and enter the kingdom of heaven. Yet, it did indeed happen and I was saved!

I tried to put the entire conversation out of my mind. It was no use.  The statement echoed in my soul, “For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory if God”. (Romans 3:23) I pondered in my mind the implications of that statement. What if it was true? What if I was actually separated from God? I lost all track of time. For days and maybe even weeks, I thought feverishly about that message.  Oh how I wished that my comfortable vague ideas about God and heaven had not been challenged. I had grown accustomed to living comfortably within my own world with my self righteous attitude and self pity. I had to humble myself spiritually and admit that I was a sinner.  Despite the hardships of my life, I still was guilty of sin in my actions and most of all my thoughts. My feelings of revenge and anger and envy were sinful! My fictitious fantasies were impure and sinful in God’s eyes. I had to make a choice and I had to make a change. It was a real decision. I decided to accept God’s friendship and gift of grace, admitting that I was guilty of sin. In that moment I had made the decision. There was no turning back. The message of the gospel and of salvation was truly good news. “God demonstrated his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8 For the first time in my life I felt truly happy and hopeful, as if an enormous burden had been cast off. The evil feelings I harbored within were a burden all my life, and it was liberating to release those negative feelings and to have God as my friend.

I still remember how I used to exist, as a corpse, dead in life, buried by my transgressions, wandering the course of this perverse world.  I was the offspring of the prince of the power of the air- oh, how he owned me,  living in disobedience, guilty of falling headlong for the persuasive passions of this world; having had my fill of indulging the flesh and mind, obeying  impulses to follow perverse thoughts motivated by dark powers. And if you haven’t figured it out yet, parts of the character of Beth are autobiographical, except of course the talking lemon.   Ephesians 2: 1-3 (the Voice NT).  I once was dead, but now I am alive, born again- saved. Because I have heard the word of truth- and received  the good news of salvation- and because I have believed in the One who is truth, marked with the Holy Spirit, who is promised as the guarentee, who frees and rescues all who belong to Him.