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Victory LambYou can hardly turn on the news or open the paper without seeing signs of the world in unrest –floods and drought, earthquakes and extreme natural disasters. Along with these headlines are Christians martyred for their faith–Iraq, Syria, Indonesia, China–the list goes on and on. When you consider all that is going on in the world, it’s not a far stretch to consider the Revelation and its prophecy of Christ’s second coming. Many have considered this book to be difficult to understand and less approachable than other books of the Bible. Scholar and author, Mark Wilson has penned a new book, Victory Through the Lamb with a unique perspective. He lives in present day Smyrna,  (Izmir) Turkey, one of the seven churches John addresses in Revelation. Wilson’s goal is to introduce his readers to Revelation by pointing them to Christ’s ultimate victory detailed in Revelation. Each chapter begins with a vignette of victory that martyrs of Christianity experienced in earlier centuries. The final chapter also includes the deaths of recent martyrs that impacted Wilson in Turkey.  He also penned his own translation of Revelation for his reader to accompany his teaching.

 The Bottom Line

Wilson’s choices of biographical accounts of the martyrs is outstanding. Their witnessing through their death was often sad but inspiring all the same. I found myself captivated by their lives and left seeing martyrdom as less tragic and truly a witness to believers and non-believers alike.  Wilson would next present a section of Revelation followed by exposition of the Scripture. These sections were insightful and written in a more scholarly format, which was quite different from the personal accounts in the martyr stories. While both were good there was not a transition linking them together so the format of the book didn’t really work well for me as the reader. I believe there is very good content in his book, but I was bogged down by the lack of transitions between each section. As a result, I missed the overarching point of his book.  I admire Dr. Wilson’s intent and his heart, but unfortunately the book as a whole fell flat for me. I give it 3 of 5 stars. Book Description

The book introduces Christians to the book of Revelation through a study of one of its key themes: victory. Running counter to Revelation’s prevailing interpretation, it proposes that Christians, represented by the audience in the Seven Churches, have been in tribulation since the first century and that Revelation was written to help Christians be victorious over the challenges of life. Each chapter opens with an aVictory through the Lambccount of martyrdom. The final account tells the story of the three believers in Malatya, Turkey, who were brutally killed in 2007. The book is dedicated to the three. The volume also features a new translation of Revelation by the author, a scholar who has worked on Revelation for over two decades and who lives in the land of the Seven Churches—Turkey.
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Weaver Book Company (September 1, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1941337015
  • ISBN-13: 978-1941337011
  • Retail Price: $17.99

Available at these retailers for less: Amazon Weaver Book Company

About the Author

Mark WilsonMark Wilson (D.Litt. et Phil., South Africa) is the founder and director of the Asia Minor Research Center in Antalya, Turkey, a country in which he and his wife Dindy have lived since 2004. He serves as Visiting Professor of Early Christianity at Regent University, Associate Professor Extraordinary of New Testament at Stellenbosch University, and Research Fellow in Biblical Archaeology at the University of South Africa. He is the English editor of the Turkish archaeological journals Adalya and Anmed. He also blogs for the online Bible History Daily. He is the author and editor of numerous books, articles, and reviews including a commentary on Revelation (Zondervan), Charts of the Book of Revelation (Kregel), The Victor Sayings in the Book of Revelation (Wipf & Stock), and Biblical Turkey: A Guide to the Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor (Ege Yayıları). Wilson is a member of twelve academic societies, including the Society of Biblical Literature, the Evangelical Theological Association, the Institute of Biblical Research, and the New Testament Society of South Africa. His particular research interests are the ancient Jewish communities, Roman roads, and biblical history in Turkey. He has been married to Dindy for forty years. They have four adult children, four granddaughters, and four grandsons. Notice: I received a complimentary e-book for an honest review of this title through Shaun Tabatt at  Cross-Focused Reviews and Weaver Book Company      

photo credit: /\ \/\/ /\ via photopin cc  

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Love Like a Boss“Like a boss.”

It’s the act of doing something as a boss would do it, and believe me “it” can be anything.

You can …

blog like a boss …

tackle like a boss …

lead worship like a boss …

pull a tooth like a boss …

decorate like a boss …

eat a burrito like a boss …

remember names like a boss …

Honestly, you can do just about anything “like a boss.”

Instagram has 2,403,062 #likeaboss posts. WHAT??

This week, Jen Hatmaker even posted a picture of her hand holding her new “Like a Boss” mug, because she does a lot of things “like a boss.”

Before I even saw her mug, which I might or might not have coveted a little bit, I was noodling on the idea of “like a boss.” Each time I read or hear that someone has accomplished something “like a boss,” my heart hears, “Yes! Now THAT is how it’s done! Bam! (Emeril Lagasse’s version of “like a boss.”)”

I confess, I want to do something “like a boss.” But what?

You might think a better question would be, “But WHY?”

I don’t want to do something like a boss because I care so much what other people think. Okay, I care a little, but once I turned 40 (a few years back) I started caring less about the opinions of others. (It’s a gift you get when you hit middle age. Thank you very much!)

But I really care what God thinks. Ephesians 6:7 reminds us to “Work with enthusiasm (like a boss), as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” (The insertion is mine obviously.)

I really want to hear a hearty, “Well done, good and faithful servant” when I get to heaven, and I’m not going to lie, I’d be more than a little okay with an enthusiastic, “You, Vicki Tiede, loved like a boss!” from Jesus.

That’s it. I want to love like a boss. Scripture tells us to love God and love others. 

“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.
This is the first and greatest commandment. 
A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
~Matthew 22:36-38

There’s such a sweet bonus in choosing to love like a boss, because when you do that it begets other “like a boss” opportunities. Catch this:

When you love your husband like a boss, you’ve just done marriage like a boss!

When you love your children like a boss, you come close to nailing parenting like a boss!

When you love others like a boss, then you find yourself  being a sister, a daughter, a friend—like a boss! You seek justice, you serve, you sacrifice, you put others first, and you forgive—(indeed!) like a boss.

And when you love God like a boss, you walk humbly with your Maker and Teacher, you obey Him, you serve Him, and you grow in your knowledge of Him … and you do it all like a boss.

It’s seems like a no-brainer to me; the very best thing any one of us can do “like a boss” is to love.

Let’s start a #LoveLikeABoss hashtag.

For heaven’s sake, let’s start a #LoveLikeABoss MOVEMENT!

Post a picture or a story on Facebook, Twitter, and / or Instagram with #LoveLikeABoss, if you have …

1. Been on the receiving end of being loved like a boss,

2. Caught someone else loving like a boss,

3. Loved like a boss yourself and it might inspire someone else to do likewise, 

The world we live in today … well, it’s a mess. I suspect it will get messier until Jesus comes, so while we’re here, let’s make the world a better place. Let’s choose to #LoveLikeABoss

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Last week I shared that I am walking a difficult path with my dearest-friend-who-is-like-a-sister. I’ve never done anything quite like this before. That means, I’m processing, stretching, and learning as I go.  For over a year, Emma and I have talked about the fact that we are learning a new dance. We don’t know the steps and we’re probably going to step on each other’s toes, but we are oh-so-careful to be gentle in the process.

I fear that I may step on some toes in this post, dear reader. That’s not my intent and I promise to be as gentle as I am able to be. Nevertheless, as I learn these dance steps, I have discovered that there are some unspoken “rules” that – if followed – prevent wear and tear on the most vulnerable toes in this routine. So, I’m begging for grace as I cut to the chase and share what I’m learning … 

One thing that has become clear to me is that many people have no idea what to say to a person who is dying, to their family, and to those closest to them. Most of us are trying to figure out our place—where we fit—if we fit at all—in the puzzle.

I read something over a year ago that stuck with me as I suspected it would be important for this stretch of the road. It was a system for how to avoid saying/doing the wrong thing in these situations. I made notes and kept them … it was THAT good. As one who has historically been known to engage her mouth and heart before her brain, I needed to figure this out. I’m going to apply the technique to Emma. (I’m sure she loves being my test case.) This is my take on the model I read about (don’t shoot the messenger, please):

Imagine a diagram of concentric circles. The innermost circle is Emma. (If you have a loved one who is experiencing a trauma of some sort, you can put their name in the circle.) She’s the one who has the metastasized breast cancer, so she gets the center ring. 

The next ring is the person closest to her. In this case, it’s her husband Kevin. (The person in this ring gets extra grace when it comes to the guidelines that follow.) 

This pattern continues with the next closest people. Children, parents, siblings, and intimate friends are in smaller rings than less familiar friends and acquaintances. 

We don’t need to be told exactly which ring our name falls in. Really … We don’t need to know! It will become apparent as time passes. We’ll figure it out.  The only person who really knows where people fall is the person in the centermost circle, and she probably couldn’t give us a list unless we’re in one of the smaller circles. The bottom line is: Don’t get hung up on this.

This is how the circles will help so that we communicate with love and grace without sticking our foot in our mouth and unintentionally hurting someone’s heart. 

Emma (or whoever is in the center of your concentric circles) gets to say WHATEVER she wants to say to ANYONE. Period. She can also choose not to say things too – her choice.

Everyone else can have opinions and think things, and say things as well – whatever they want to say – but ONLY to those in BIGGER CIRCLES.

Read that last line again, because this is the sticking point. (Don’t pass “go” until you completely understand this.) 

When we are having a conversation with anyone in a circle smaller than ours, we need to listen more than we talk. We need to comfort, encourage, and support, not give advice or share your opinions. Oh, and no one in a smaller circle wants to hear that we know “exactly how they feel” – because we don’t, and even if we have an excellent experiential story that we are confident is similar to their experience – save it, because it isn’t. No one else’s experience has ever been and never will be exactly like the person in the center circle’s experience. (We need to dial-a-friend in a bigger circle if it’s eating us up not to share.)

This simply is not about you or me. It’s not about what we need. It’s easy to get caught up in how we are feeling and as a result create discord and stress, when we really long to contribute to a peaceful environment. It’s not about how hard this is for us, and believe me, I know that it’s breaking your heart just as it’s breaking mine. Can we agree to talk to someone who’s in our circle or one that’s larger about that? Better yet, let’s pour out our heart to the One whose shoulders are big enough to bear all of our burdens.

My notes say, “Comfort IN, dump OUT.”

That means we don’t “dump” on anyone who is in any of the circles that are smaller than ours. Instead, pour IN comfort, love, support, and prayer. 

I’d like to make special mention of children. If the person in the center ring has children, let’s take special care about what we say to them. They especially don’t need our stuff dumped on them. It’s not necessary to ask them any questions about their parent’s health. Ask an adult. Figure out who your friend’s chosen point person/care-traffic-controller/gate-keeper is. If there is something we really need to know, ask his or her “person.” If it’s curiosity or worse – understand that there are just some things we don’t need to know and refrain from asking.

Imagine all the scenarios that this concentric circle model fits. It’s not just when you have a friend or loved one who is dying. This fits anytime someone is in crisis; a divorce, job loss, home burns down …

It’s normal in these situations to wonder … What will he do about X? How are they going to handle Y? Do they have a plan for Z?

Here’s the deal — if we are part of the answer to X, Y, or Z, we can trust that someone in a smaller circle will come to us directly. If they haven’t, then we probably don’t require answers to these questions.

As long as I’m on a roll, I might also mention that when we tell someone who is facing a terminal diagnosis, “but you look so good” – though our intention is to compliment her, it actually invalidates her pain and symptoms. By God’s grace they hope they look better than they feel. Palliative care can sometimes help them navigate a little bit longer than they would if they weren’t getting help managing pain.

So this feels like an awful lot of DON’Ts. Sorry about that. I know how helpless you feel to do or say the right things. We all feel that way in situations like this.

There are some things we CAN say.

We can admit, “I don’t know what to say, but I care about you and I’m praying for you.” (Then DO it! There is absolutely nothing more powerful than prayer.)

It’s appropriate to say, “I have no idea what this is like for you, but I am here if you need anything.” (Don’t say it unless you mean it.)

Above all else, tell them you love them.

Recognize that there will come a time when, because of the particular circle we are in, we will no longer have an opportunity to tell them anything this side of heaven. Then we continue praying and we continue caring for those in the smallest circles. 

 

IMG_4826

On Sunday morning, we sang “10,000 Reasons.” Okay, so I ugly sobbed and croaked out “10,000 Reasons,” arms raised and heart full.

And on that day when my strength is failing

The end draws near and my time has come

Still my soul will sing Your praise unending

Ten thousand years and then forevermore

 I can only speak about my friend, but the reason I believe Emma looks stunning—even now—is because Jesus is in her eyes. He is filling her up with more of Himself than ever before. I know this is true because I see Him in her eyes. It’s what hope and glorious anticipation of Home looks like in the eyes of one who has followed Jesus imperfectly, but oh-so-closely all her life.

With her arm raised in praise on Sunday morning, and the support of the one her soul loves, I rejoiced that our eternal future is sealed. My friend and I will sing God’s praise unending – ten thousand years and then forevermore.

 

 

 

 

 

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JesusWept.jpgJesus wept.

~John 11:35~

 

I’ve heard it said that this is both the shortest and the saddest verse in the Bible, but I would add that it’s one of the most comforting verses as well.

My warrior-friend-who-is-like-a-sister Emma is full of metastasized breast cancer. By all accounts, her prognosis looks glorious. She, like every other Christ follower, will end her days in the arms of the Answer to all her questions and concerns – she will be welcomed Home by her Savior. She will be overwhelmed by peace and wholeness and health and love … and I could go on forever. Her Homecoming will be sooner than anyone left behind would like, but it will be (gulp – swallow sob) in His perfect timing. I believe it  - even though today it’s hard to swallow.

I am grieving deeply. There are no adequate words to appropriately convey these feelings. I won’t even try.

Definition of GRIEF  /grēf/ noun deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone’s death.

      synonyms:  sorrow, misery, sadness, anguish, pain, distress, heartache, heartbreak, agony,
torment, affliction, suffering, woe, desolation, dejection, despair

Yes. Pretty much all of that and more. 

I’m not the only one grieving. Indeed, the depth of my heart’s sadness cannot compare to that of Emma’s, her husband’s or her three school-age children’s. My loss cannot compare to that of her parents’ or her sisters’. Emma is loved by oh-so-many. Yet, in our grief, we can feel alone.

The fact that Jesus wept comforts my heart, because I know that truth trumps feelings and I am not alone. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Christ’s tears are a beautiful testimony of His humanity.

Jesus wept in the context of His friend Lazarus’ death. (He knows exactly how this feels.) Mary and Martha, Lazarus’s sisters, were heartbroken, and in his humanity, Jesus joined them in their pain even though He knew what He was about to do. If you recall, Jesus assured the sisters that Lazarus would rise again. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this” (John 11:25-26)? When Jesus commanded, “Lazarus, come out!” He did. 

Here’s the deal … though we are grieving our loss of time with Emma, we are not without hope. We know that God still is. He is able. He is good. He is with us. He is at work. He is not caught off guard. He is in control. He is the Answer to our questions and concerns. He is righteous. He is sovereign. He is waiting with open arms for each of us.

If you look at the definition of grief (above) you’ll see that suffering is synonymous with grief. I think it’s appropriate to share an excerpt from my book* because it’s possible to read “grief” where you see the word “suffering” and I find it comforting to bathe in the truth of these words.

 In Margaret Clarkson’s book Destined for Glory, she wrote, “Perhaps the greatest good that suffering can work for a believer is to increase the capacity of his soul for God. The greater our need, the greater will be our capacity; the greater our capacity, the greater will be our experience of God. Can any price be too much for such eternal good?”

I would call that “good suffering.” Bad suffering results in no change. It’s pain for the sake of pain alone. Good suffering, on the other hand, reduces you to a point of being completely ineffective in your own efforts and old patterns of coping and requires dependence on God. Until you experience good suffering, you often do little more than admire God from a distance. Good suffering doesn’t mean you curl up in the fetal position and rock away your days. It’s anything but passive. Instead, it permits God to do whatever he needs to do with your life in order to achieve his desired and perfect outcome.

There is nothing comfortable about grief and suffering. Forgive me, but cancer sucks. Life does not suck, even if it means living it for a while without someone we love beyond words. We know the separation is temporary.Hello! THIS. IS. ALL. TEMPORARY! But when we accept Jesus’s gift of salvation our eternity is sealed and our future is glorious and THAT is forever.

Death also does not suck for believers. Just as Jesus wept despite knowing that he was about to embrace His living friend, we weep though we know that our friend lives in eternity with Jesus. There’s purpose in our TEARs. They help us …

To accept the reality of this loss,

Experience the anguish of this loss,

Adjust to a new “daily” life without this one whom we love, and

Reinvest in this new “normal”

Jesus wept. He knows our pain. We are never alone.

Grief that changes us is good grief. It taxis us to the feet of Jesus to whom we cling. It causes us to think far less of ourselves and infinitely more of how desperately we love God and love others. 

I do not know tomorrow’s way,

If dark or bright its hours may be;

But I know Christ, and come what may,

I know that He abides with me.

 
I do not know what may befall

Of grief or gladness, peace or pain;

But I know Christ, and through it all

I know His presence will sustain.

                                                               ~Margaret Clarkson

 

There’s no more appropriate way to end this than with Emma singing, “All I Have is Christ.” This is the truth we all must proclaim.

 

[Note to my regular readers: This fall will look different than I planned. God has sweetly and steadily been telling my heart what it would look like, though I fought Him much of the way. I will not be traveling to Greece (Footprints of Paul tour) or to Nepal (postponed until 2015). I will not be speaking this fall. I will not be blogging about what's in my crockpot for a while. I have tremendous peace about all of this- especially the crockpot piece. ;) Instead, I will be helping our daughter move into her first apartment, homeschooling my two boys, homeschooling Emma and her husband's three children, writing "Intercepted", and loving the people God has put into my life for this season. I am grateful for the gift of each day. #eucharisteo]

* When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography: Healing Your Wounded Heart

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God's StoryAlright, if you know the lyrics to this old Sam Cooke song, sing along with me … “Don’t know much about (church) history. Don’t know much about (church) geography….” Many of us have likely heard this familiar pop song “What a Wonderful World” (Click here if you want a reminder)– of course I added the church part and mixed it up a bit, but you get the idea!

I have confessed here before that I am not a church history expert, but I do know a little more about geography with my Biblical travels. Honestly, a good and easy read on church history is hard to come by. As a home schooling family, we are always looking for additional resources to supplement our education at home or recommend to our youth pastors and Sunday School teachers.  So Dr. Brian Cosby’s new title, God’s Story: A Student’s Guide to Church History was a welcomed title to read and review.

Bottom Line

I highly recommend this book.  It is concise. It is very easy to read, and I believe anyone who is not familiar with church history will be well informed by reading this book.  The target audience is meant to be around 14 to 16 years old; however, I think younger teens who are well versed in the Bible and anyone older would also enjoy this book. Dr. Cosby is able to write to his audience in a manner that will speak to them and help them understand the important people and major events that shaped Christianity through the ages.  Dr. Cosby wrote another book I really enjoyed and recommended a while back Rebels Rescued.

We will be covering the time periods in history covered by this book. This book will be an great supplement for our younger kids education. Also, it is a perfect resource for a Bible study, Sunday school class, or small group for youth.  The chapters take about 10-15 minutes to read and there are great questions that would help facilitate discussion about historical events, theology, and cultural impact on Christianity.

I give God’s Story five of five stars and recommend this book for teens and adults who want a easy to read overview of church history.
  

Book Description

Gods story coverBrian Cosby makes the past come alive for students to explain Christian identity and to help readers avoid past mistakes. The history of the church reveals God’s story for the world – despite the sin, corruption, and twisted events in the church’s past, God has preserved this remnant, His people. Get a new understanding of His plan for the church and your life.

Series: A Students Guide
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: CF4Kids (May 20, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 178191320X
ISBN-13: 978-1781913208
Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 5.1 x 0.1 inches
Retail Price:  $9.99

Available for less at these retailers:

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CBD

Christian Focus

 About the AuthorBrian Cosby

Brian H. Cosby is pastor of Wayside Presbyterian Church (PCA) on Signal Mountain, Tennessee, and visiting professor of church history at Reformed Theological Seminary, Atlanta. He holds degrees from Samford University (B.A.), Beeson Divinity School (M.Div.), The North American Reformed Seminary (D.Min.), and Australian College of Theology (Ph.D.).

 

Notice: I received a complimentary e-book for an honest review of this title through Shaun Tabatt at  Cross-Focused Reviews and Christian Focus Publications

 photo credit: cyclops-photo via photopin cc
  

 

 

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