photo credit: Leo Reynolds via photopin cc

Are you ready for the rapture?

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I’ve had fun participating on the launch team for A Time to Die, the fabulous debut novel by Nadine Brandes. I’m the last stop on the blog hop, so I wanted to do something a bit different. That’s me–a bit different. ;)

So, instead of just answering the question what would I do if I had one year left to live, I want to also ask, what if I only had one year until Jesus returned?

photo credit: Zyllan Fotografía via photopin cc

photo credit: Zyllan Fotografía via photopin cc

With ISIS/ISIL, Ebola, and the state of the world in general, it’s not surprising to wonder whether the end may come in our time. If you think about it, each passing second brings us closer to the time of Jesus’ return. Over and over in Scripture, we are warned that the time is near. 

I don’t want to dwell on how or when the rapture will occur. Maybe one day I’ll post about it, but today I will defer to those more learned than I. Here are two great articles on the rapture, if you’re interested in reading more about the subject:

Why the differentiation between dying in a year or being called to heaven in a year? Aren’t they the same thing?

Well, yes, in that my time here on Earth will be done. But, no, in that when I die I will probably leave friends and family behind me. When Christ returns, I hope my friends and family will be going with me. And, yes, that includes you. :)

So here are my thoughts on how my last year would differ depending on if I knew I was going to die vs. be raptured as part of the church:

If I had one year to live, I would try to prepare my friends and family for my death. I wouldn’t want them to be mad at God because I died. I’d want them to find comfort in him instead.

But if I had one year until He returned, I’d want to get as many people ready to go with me as I could. No more messing around and acting like we’ll live forever.

If I had one year left to live, I would spend as much quality time with my family as I could. I would want to invest in them and hope to leave them memories to take the sting of my parting.

But if I had one year until Christ came for us, I would want my family to help spread the news to as many people as possible. After all, we’d all be leaving Earth together to spend eternity with God.

If I had one year left to live, I would try to tie up any loose ends and prepare my family for the future as best I could. I would write a journal to my girls with words of hope and encouragement for their big days ahead. High school graduation. Their first date. Their wedding. Their first child.

But if I had one year til Christ returns, I wouldn’t prepare for a future here on Earth. There would be no need. I’d spend all my time preparing for a future in heaven.

Things that make you go hmmmm.

WHAT WOULD YOU ADD TO THE LIST?

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Check out A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes. It’s a story about a girl, a whole society in fact, that knows the precise moment they will die from the moment of their birth. They don’t know how, but they do know when…

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How would you live if you knew the day you’d die?

Parvin Blackwater believes she has wasted her life. At only seventeen, she has one year left according to the Clock by her bedside. In a last-ditch effort to make a difference, she tries to rescue Radicals from the government’s crooked justice system. 

But when the authorities find out about her illegal activity, they cast her through the Wall — her people’s death sentence. What she finds on the other side about the world, about eternity, and about herself changes Parvin forever and might just save her people. But her clock is running out.

This is book one in the “Out of Time” trilogy (subsequent volumes coming in 2015 and 2016).

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You can connect with Nadine at her website, on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Are Mormons Christian?

photo credit: Diueine via photopin cc

photo credit: Diueine via photopin cc

A Facebook friend posed an interesting question for debate yesterday that has garnered over one-hundred comments: Are Mormons Christian?

The topic is not without controversy (understatement). I thought I’d take some time to work through the issue here for those who are interested in my take.

What is a Christian? 

The term “Christian” was first coined to describe believers in Antioch (Acts 11:26). In Greek, the word literally meant “those belonging to Christ’s party, i.e., Christ followers.” A term distinguishing believers from the Jews and pagan Gentiles.

So, the term ‘Christian’ is meant to differentiate those with certain beliefs, specifically beliefs about Jesus.

What beliefs must one hold to be a Christian? Or, to put it another way, what must someone do to be a believer?

A jailer posed this question to Paul and Silas after God performed a supernatural act (Acts 16). They told him to “believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household.” [Presumably, if the head of the house believed something, then his entire household would go along with his beliefs. That's a word to some men out there, but we'll save that topic for a different post. ;)]

What does it mean to “believe in the Lord Jesus?”

Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you have known me, you will know my Father too.” - John 14:6-7a

But don’t Mormons believe in Jesus? 

The Bible calls us to be on guard for those who proclaim a Jesus, but not the real Jesus in the Bible. Remember Paul’s words to the Corinthians?

But I am afraid that just as the serpent deceived Eve by his treachery, your minds may be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus different from the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit than the one you received, or a different gospel than the one you accepted, you put up with it well enough! ~2 Corinthians 11:3-4

And that’s what we have with religious groups like the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. They claim they believe in Jesus, but when you dig a little deeper and ask a few more questions, you realize they’re proclaiming a different Jesus and a different gospel than the one in the Bible.

Christ in the Land Bountiful, by Simon Dewey (https://www.lds.org/media-library/images/christ-land-bountiful-174607?category=gospel-art/book-of-mormon&lang=eng)

Art depicting Jesus’ alleged visit to people in the New World in the Book of Mormon (Christ in the Land Bountiful by Simon Dewey)

The subject of false teaching was a popular one in the early church. Look what Paul wrote to the Galatians:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are following a different gospel – not that there really is another gospel, but there are some who are disturbing you and wanting to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we (or an angel from heaven) should preach a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be condemned to hell! As we have said before, and now I say again, if any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let him be condemned to hell! ~ Galatians 1:6-9

An angel like Moroni who allegedly gave Joseph Smith 18 golden tablets that comprise the Book of Mormon? A wouldn’t the Book of Mormon be considered a different gospel?

Joseph Smith Receives the Gold Plates, by Kenneth Riley (62012); GAK 406; Primary manual 3-33; Primary manual 4-03; Primary manual 5-11; Joseph Smith—History 1:47–59

Joseph Smith Receives the Gold Plates, by Kenneth Riley (62012); GAK 406; Primary manual 3-33; Primary manual 4-03; Primary manual 5-11; Joseph Smith—History 1:47–59

Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. ~Colossians 2:8

Human thinking like Brigham Young’s and Joseph Smith’s? Joseph Smith altered the King James Version of the Bible to create his own inspired version, including adding a reference to himself in Genesis 50. 

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. ~2 Peter 2:1-3

Destructive heresies like teaching that Jesus paved the way to heaven with his resurrection but it is up to people to prove themselves worth of exaltation through their good works? Claims like Jesus is the first “spirit-son” of God and that Lucifer is his brother? Claims that Jesus was begotten through sexual relations between God the Father and Mary in the flesh? Claims like the Book of Mormon is “just another Testament” and that when Mormons die, they can eventually become gods themselves?

Sensuality like polygamy? A belief so essential that they traveled to the territory of Utah to establish their own government?

Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If the person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here. ~1 John 4:1-3

But some argue that Mormons are Christians based on their good works.

So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?” ~James 2:17-20

photo credit: jonathanpercy via photopin cc

photo credit: jonathanpercy via photopin cc

Mormonism is compelling. If you know any Mormons, they are the nicest and most helpful people you will ever meet. They will go out of their way to give you whatever they have. They have exceptionally strong family values. They are moral. In fact, I would contend that most Mormons look more Christian than many Christians. So where’s the problem?

“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits. ~Matthew 7:15-20

You have to look at all their fruit. In teaching contrary to the Bible, they are trying to lead people astray, no matter how well-seemingly.

I mean, think about it. Our enemy is clever. He is the father or lies and full of deceit. He would create a religion that would be attractive. One that looks like what Christianity is supposed to look like. And, yes, I would contend that this angel, Moroni, was Lucifer or one of his minions.

And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will correspond to their actions. ~2 Corinthians 11:14-15

Mormons believe in Jesus and pray to God, so does it really matter if some of the things they believe are wrong?

Yes, it does. Because it is a matter of salvation for them. If you truly care about your Mormon friend (or yourself, if you are reading this and you are Mormon), then it is essential that we recognize Jesus for who He is.

Jesus said, Enter through the narrow gate, because the gate is wide and the way is spacious that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through itBut the gate is narrow and the way is difficult that leads to life, and there are few who find it. ~Matthew 7:13-14

photo credit: ramtopsrac via photopin cc

photo credit: ramtopsrac via photopin cc

Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ ~Matthew 7:21-23

“But who am I to judge whether someone else is saved?”

It’s a great question, backed by plenty of biblical basis:

Who are you to pass judgment on another’s servant? Before his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. ~Romans 14:4

But who is a Mormon’s master? Is it Jesus? The real Jesus?

Do not speak against one another, brothers and sisters. He who speaks against a fellow believer or judges a fellow believer speaks against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but its judge. But there is only one who is lawgiver and judge – the one who is able to save and destroy. On the other hand, who are you to judge your neighbor? ~ James 4:11-12

But are Mormons really believers?

Do not grumble against one anotherbrothers and sisters, so that you may not be judged. See, the judge stands before the gates! ~James 5:9

Friends, I’m not writing this post to pass judgment on any person, but on false teaching. I’m writing to shed truth on a subject where some Christians are very, very confused. In our society today where truth is relative, Christians are not doing anyone a favor by being inclusive or universal in the name of tolerance.

So what are our options?

photo credit: Sasquatch I via photopin cc

photo credit: Sasquatch I via photopin cc

1. Treat Mormons as if they are Christians. Let them go their own way. Assume they are saved. Assume that the Jesus they are preaching to the world is the same as the Jesus in the Bible. In other words, do nothing.

2. Treat Mormons as if they are not (or may not be) Christians. Assume they might not be saved. Assume that the tenets of Mormonism are untrue. 

Obviously, I prefer option 2. If I’m wrong, and option #1 is the correct one, then what harm have I done? 

But if #2 is true, then what harm am I doing?

  • I’m allowing someone that does not know God to persist in unbelief.
  • I am letting them believe a lie.
  • I am letting them propagate that lie to others.

That’s the risk, folks.

Now hear me: I do not think that your average Mormon is the Antichrist. Mormons are following a Christian-like religion because they want to be on the right side of God. They are not atheists or agnostics. These are people who are seeking God and want to follow him.

It is the people that are high in the secret upper echelon of Mormonism that are the true deceivers. And it is our job as Christians to try to rescue the sheep they have stolen.

So we are no longer to be children, tossed back and forth by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching by the trickery of people who craftily carry out their deceitful schemes. But practicing the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ, who is the head. ~Ephesians 4:14-15

But don’t take my word for it. Pray to God and search the Scriptures for yourself.

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. ~James 1:5

Be Berean:

And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. ~Acts 17:11

Will you join me in prayer?

Father God, we want to know you. We want to have a relationship with the real you. Please make your truth known to us. You already know our hearts. If we are wrong in our beliefs, please open our eyes to your truth so that we might share that truth with others. Free us from the deception of the evil one. In your powerful Son’s name, Jesus, we pray. Amen. 

COMMENTS? QUESTIONS?

4 Free Bible Study Tools I Love

I’ve had a couple of friends ask me recently how I do my personal Bible study, so I thought I’d share my process and ask you to share yours as well. :) Let’s encourage one another!

Here are my 4 go-to tools for Bible study:

1. Where should I start?

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photo credit: mikecogh via photopin cc

I use the free YouVersion Bible App (YouVersion.com). There are a bazillion (I counted) study plans to choose from. They range from short and topical to the entire Bible in 30 days. There is a plan for you, I guarantee. You install the app on your phone or tablet and it will remind you to read, it can email you your daily reading, and if you get behind you can refresh the plan in order to catch yourself up without missing anything. You can also read straight from your computer. No excuses!

2. Where’s that verse?

I’m hit and miss with memorization. Usually I can tell you what the Bible says, but not where it says it. That’s where Lumina from Bible.org comes in handy. It has the best Bible search that you can find. If you want to look for a topic – like how many times the word garlic is used in the Bible (once) – you can type it in and press go. If you remember a part of a verse and you want to find it, you search a part of the verse and the matches will be sorted by relevance. For instance, if I search “wings like eagles” to try to find Isaiah 40:31 But those who wait for the Lord’s help find renewed strength; they rise up as if they had eagles’ wings, they run without growing weary, they walk without getting tired.” The verse was #5 on the list of Scriptures by relevance (you can do the search if you want to know what #1-4 were).

The great thing is that Lumina searches all the parallel Bible versions at the same time, so if you remember the verse in King James, you can search with thee’s and thou’s to your hearts content. It will find the verse for you.

3. What in the world?

photo credit: @Doug88888 via photopin cc

photo credit: @Doug88888 via photopin cc

We’ve all had those moments – the times when you sit down for Bible study and read a passage and wonder what in the world is going on. My absolute favorite commentary is absolutely free and it’s available in two different places on the web! Dr. Constable, a professor from Dallas Theological Seminary, has shared his own notes for when he teaches Bible study at his church. Each time he goes through a particular Bible book, he updates his notes and they are simply amazing.

You can find them at his site and they are also in the “Constable’s Notes” tab in Lumina. One stop shopping. ;)

4. Do I just read it?

photo credit: Ryk Neethling via photopin cc

photo credit: Ryk Neethling via photopin cc

Yes, but NO! Reading is a great place to start, but you don’t want to end there. Why read when you can interact with the text? 

The Bible is God’s revelation to us. As a friend tells me, the Bible is basic instructions before leaving earth.

Scripture lives and breathes. That’s why it’s important to read it daily. Each day you will get something new out of it, even if you read the same portion again. And as my pastor warned recently, reading the Bible will mess up your plans. If your plans aren’t in line with God’s, that is. 

So how do you interact with the text? You ask yourself some questions. Here are the ones suggested by another of our pastors:

The first two questions help with observation of the text.  Ask: 

  • What does this passage say about God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit?
  • What does this passage say about people, life, or faith? 

The next question helps with interpretation.  Ask:

  • Why is this passage in the Bible? 

The final two questions help with application.  Ask

  • How does this passage relate to my life? 
  • How can I put this truth into practice?

If you want to see the questions put into practice, I blogged about them a while back.

If that’s too structured for you, then keep a journal and write down the verses that jump out at you. Maybe you like them or don’t understand them. Or write down what you think about the passage you just read. Don’t like writing? Draw a picture or tell someone about what you read. Do something besides passive reading. It will help the words stick.

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN? HOW DO YOU STUDY THE BIBLE? WHAT DOES YOUR PERSONAL QUIET TIME LOOK LIKE?

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Be careful what you pray for…

photo credit: ashley rose, via photopin cc

photo credit: ashley rose, via photopin cc

Ever heard the saying, Be careful what you pray for…because you just might get it? I’m curious…do you agree or disagree with the warning?

Usually the warning comes at a time like this…you’re in a small group and taking prayer requests.

Janey: “Please pray for me. I need need to be more patient.”

Lucy: Girl, be careful what you pray for. God won’t give you patience, he’ll give you the opportunity to learn patience.

i.e. You don’t want to ask for that because your life will get worse instead of better.

What a load of horse pucky.

Do you believe God is sovereign and good? (Because He is). If you do, then why should you fear to ask Him for anything? Don’t all good and perfect gifts come from the Father above (James 1:17)? If we ask God for a fish, will he give us a snake (Luke 11:11)? If we ask for Him for an egg, will he give us a scorpion (Luke 11:12)? If we ask Him for patience, will He make our life worse?

And what about biblical passages like these:

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. ~1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

[Jesus:] “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” Luke 11:9-10

photo credit: Art4TheGlryOfGod via photopin cc

photo credit: Art4TheGlryOfGod via photopin cc

Of course, it’s never that easy, because there is always a caveat. The key is why you’re asking.

You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure. ~ James 4:2-3

And if you’re really boneheaded about it, God might go ahead and give you what you ask for like he did in the case of the Israelites. Remember when they wanted to be like everyone else?

“Look,” they told [Samuel], “you are now old, and your sons are not like you. Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.” ~1 Samuel 8:5

But God saw their request for what it really was:

photo credit: JD Hancock via photopin cc

photo credit: JD Hancock via photopin cc

Do everything they say to you,” the Lord replied, “for they are rejecting me, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about the way a king will reign over them.” ~1 Samuel 8:6-9

Samuel warned them what it would be like to have a human king, yet they persisted. And God granted their request.

So should you be careful what you pray for? I don’t think so. Go ahead and ask. Go to God with all of your worries, desires, wants, and needs. It’s not so much what you’re asking for that’s the problem, it’s why your’re asking. Check your motives. Are you wanting God to give you what you want because you want it? Are you treating Him like a vending machine in the sky? Or are you asking for what you want, but desiring God’s best even if it’s not what you’re thinking?

I’m reminded of Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” ~Luke 22:42

Take anything and everything to God in prayer, but do so with humility and thankfulness. If you do that, go ahead and ask for whatever you want.

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Now for the book tie in. :)

Nadine Brandes’s debut novel, A Time to Die, releases today. Her premise ties into the concept of being careful what you ask for. In the book, society wanted to know the exact time of their deaths so they could plan their lives appropriately. So God, through technology, granted their request. At the time of conception, each person is coupled with a clock that shows the exact time of that person’s death. To the second. A countdown to oblivion.

And what ended up happening? In that society, clocks have become everything. If you don’t have one, you’re killed/exiled. Your life and worth are based on how much time you have left to give to society.

And would you really want to know exactly when you would die? How would that change things for you?

Congratulations to Sparks of Ember for winning a free e-copy of A Time to Die!

For those of you who didn’t win, you still have a chance!

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TALK TO ME: ARE YOU IN THE BE-CAREFUL-WHAT-YOU-PRAY-FOR OR ASK-GOD-FOR-ANYTHING CAMP?

Shadow Play made Splickety Prime 3.3

I have to laugh every time I type Splickety, because spell check wants to correct it to Persnickety. :D

Anyway, I sold my first piece of flash fiction (1000 words or less) to Splickety Prime. It released over the weekend in an issue with the theme of Deliverance. Should you wish to read it and the seven other wonderful stories in this issue, you can grab a copy at the links below!

Prime 3.3 Cover

Digital subscription to Splickety Prime

Individual issue purchase (print only) 

NOW TELL ME, WHAT IS THE LAST MAGAZINE YOU BOUGHT? OR ARE YOU A REGULAR SUBSCRIBER TO ANY?

ATimetoDieCov

Nadine Brandes on A Time to Die

Nadine Brandes - Head Shot

I haven’t written much yet about A Time to Die, Nadine’s fantastic debut novel. I have a couple of fun blog posts scheduled to explore some themes in the novel, but before I do that, I’d like to introduce you to Nadine. If you’re like me and adore dystopian fiction (as long as it’s original), then you’ll LOVE A Time to Die. Not only is it original, it’s Christian, and that means you get the bonus: great story laced with hope.

Please help welcome Nadine to the blog and read to the end for a glimpse of her book and a chance to win a copy!

Hi Nadine! Thanks so much for coming on the blog today to talk about your upcoming release! The first question I always ask is this: do you consider yourself a Christian author or author of Christian fiction? What do you think the difference is? 

Hello Lisa! Thank you for having me. I consider myself a Christian author. One reason being that my entire passion and pursuit of writing has been at God’s urging. Looking back through my life, I can clearly see His hand in shaping me as a storyteller. I could never do it without Him, nor would I want to. I like watching Him hone the story into the message He knows it needs to send.

I hear you. I wouldn’t want to do anything without God. :) One of the characters in your novel is maimed during the course of the story. Did you know that was going to happen when you started writing the book? What challenges are inherent in writing a character that is physically limited?

No! I had no clue that would happen! I had the entire scene planned out for that character to be rescued. No matter how I worked it, the scene wouldn’t come out right. It didn’t work. Then, during a long drive home, I felt as though God whispered, “That character doesn’t get rescued in that moment.” I argued a very long time with Him before I finally accepted it. Now, I see many reasons why this had to happen.

It’s hard for me to 1) remember that this character has this limitation sometimes and 2) make this character react and process through the circumstance and struggles convincingly. Since I don’t share this limitation (nor do I know someone who does) it’s hard to deliver it convincingly or in a way others can relate.

It came across as believable to me, enough to make me cringe when it happened. [ouch]

One of the characters in your novel, The Preacher, is modeled after the author of Ecclesiastes, whom many believe was King Solomon. Tell us about how you created this character and if we can expect to see more of him in the rest of the series.

Well, you kind of summed it up. He’s modeled after The Preacher in Ecclesiastes. If I were to make that book into a person, that’s how I imagine him. I get a little grouchy at the author of Ecclesiastes and I felt like Parvin was a channel through which I could finally argue against some of the author’s opinions.

Yes, we will see him again in book two. :) I’m actually writing a scene with him at this very moment.

I understand that A Time to Die is the first book in a trilogy. Any idea what you’ll work on when you finish the series?

Nadine in pirate attire

Nadine in pirate attire

Oooh yes. I have a long list, but there’s been a portal fantasy series that’s been aching to come out ever since I first viewed writing as a profession. I was actually working on that when A Time to Die interrupted me. I won’t give too many details though. I want it to be a surprise. [grin]

My curiosity is piqued! And before you go, what is one thing you’d like your readers to know?

Our time on earth is limited, but with God we are limitless. Pursue both (life & God) to the full potential He’s given you. It’s worth every ounce of risk and energy.

You can connect with Nadine at her website, Amazon author page, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.  

ATimetoDieCovHow would you live if you knew the day you’d die?

Parvin Blackwater believes she has wasted her life. At only seventeen, she has one year left according to the Clock by her bedside. In a last-ditch effort to make a difference, she tries to rescue Radicals from the government’s crooked justice system.

But when the authorities find out about her illegal activity, they cast her through the Wall — her people’s death sentence. What she finds on the other side about the world, about eternity, and about herself changes Parvin forever and might just save her people. But her clock is running out.

This is book one in the “Out of Time” trilogy (subsequent volumes coming in 2015 and 2016).

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SO, READERS, WHAT DO YOU THINK? IS THIS A BOOK YOU’D LIKE TO READ?

IN ORDER TO SUPPORT NADINE AND HER FANTASTIC NEW SERIES, I’M GIVING AWAY AN E-BOOK COPY OF A TIME TO DIE. COMMENT BELOW TO BE ENTERED. WINNER ANNOUNCEd ON RELEASE DAY, SEPT. 23. Must be 18 or older to enter. No purchase necessary.

Congratulations to Brad, the winner of The Legend of Sheba:Rise of a Queen giveaway!

Tosca Lee on Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen

tosca

I had the privilege of meeting Tosca Lee at a writer’s conference in May. Not only is she an incredible writer and speaker, but she is one of the sweetest, most genuine, and helpful women I have ever met. (Not to mention tall and gorgeous too!) I jumped at the chance to read Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen, and it is my favorite novel of hers so far. Her books keep getting better and better. Her writing sings, compels the reader, and entertains in equal portion. I am pleased and excited to welcome her on the blog today to talk about her new release. Stay tuned til the end for a gift from Tosca and a chance to win a copy of her new book!

Me: Hi, Tosca! My first question always revolves around Christian fiction and the authors who write it. You’re known for your controversial points of view and pushing limits of the category of Christian fiction. What is it about your books that you believe resonates so much with Christian readers?

TL: I think it’s that I’m willing to go there and get gritty. To admit that halfway through the writing of Iscariot, I realized I was no longer writing his story… but my own. Havah is also my story. They all are. And we’re not that different, you and I. I like writing about these maligned characters because even though we may not want to, we can often identify with them far more readily than the good guys, who seem so untouchable. We all feel let down at some point by the way God fails to adhere to our agendas for Him. We all have moments when we think, “if you knew me—really knew me—you would not love me.” We all fail with the best of intentions, and we all want to be embraced exactly as we are. We are all as capable of darkness as we are of light—and often the darkness is far more tangible. The stuff in the Bible isn’t sterile—far from it. It’s gory, violent, sexual, and messy. But so is life. I want to be honest about fear and compromise as I am about hope, beauty and redemption.

Me: I completely agree. Give me gritty fiction any time. But what do we actually know about King Solomon—I understand that the academic opinion varies quite a lot from the biblical account.

TL: We know more about the region, people, language, culture and ethnic history of the Israelites than anything, archaeologically-speaking, of the king himself. It would be such a help if something were unearthed from the City of David or the Temple Mount that could be linked to Solomon’s temple or directly to Solomon himself! There was an item—a small ivory pomegranate that was once thought to top the scepter of a priest of this time period, with an inscription indicating so… but this was later ruled to be a forgery, though the carved pomegranate did date to the correct (early to mid-900s BC) time period. I say more about this question in the Author’s Notes of Legend of Sheba.

Me: The queen is a very minor character in the scope of the biblical narrative, but you assert that her famous visit to King Solomon is vitally important in the scope of Old Testament history. Why?

For two reasons. If the story of the United Monarchy (the kingdom of David and his son/successor, Solomon) is not true, then the bedrock of three major world religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) collapses into fiction, and the claim of Jews to the land of Israel with it. Perhaps the authors of 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles knew that, because they took the opportunity to basically say, “Hey, this queen from the ends of the earth, that famous Queen of Sheba, came and brought tribute to our king, and blessed him and our god and said ‘All that I heard was true, and I never even heard the half of it!’” This is fascinating. It begs the question: what was it that was so great about this female sovereign—in a time when the world was ruled by men—and a pagan, no less… what was it about her that was so outstanding that her endorsement of Solomon, his riches, wisdom, and god, held so much weight as to be included in the Old Testament narrative? Who was this woman who matched wits with the wisest man in the world—whose throne was so secure that she could leave it and make the 1400 mile journey of half a year to visit this king… before making the long trek back? Well, this must be a woman worth knowing something about.

Me: LOL. Yes, indeed, although I heard it was hard to find much about her during your research…

TL: After a year and a half of hard research for Iscariot, I thought research for Sheba would be much easier. Not so! It is much harder to fill in the historical record of 1000 years earlier than the time of Christ due to the dearth of archaeological progress in history-rich and troubled Yemen, natural phenomena such as the encroaching sands of the desert, and a lack of historical records recording any queen in the Southern Arabian region.

Me: Well the book is brilliant, and I know readers will enjoy it. What are one or two things that we don’t know about you?

TL: I danced semi-professionally as a classical ballerina in my teens. I also used to be a concert pianist. I have the greatest fans in the world, am terrible at math, can’t work if my house is messy, and am a crack shot with a deer rifle.

Me: I’d love to hear you play the piano. Maybe someday. :) What are you working on next?

I’m taking a break from biblical historicals. My next two books will be something different. And then I’ll delve back into the biblical world again.

You can follow Tosca on her WebsiteFacebookTwitterGoodreadsPinterest, and Instagram.

ismeniAnd now, Tosca has left us with a free gift! Ismeni—a free eBook short story prequel to The Legend of Sheba—is be available. This is the story of Sheba’s mother, and sheds some light on the man who would become the queen of Sheba’s right-hand councilor. It’s about 34 pages long, and also includes a preview of the Prologue and first chapter of The Legend of Sheba.

 

Sheba

 

NOW, WHO WANTS TO WIN AN E-BOOK COPY OF LEGEND OF SHEBA? Comment below and tell me if you’ve ever seen a camel in person. :) 

Must be 18 to enter. No purchase necessary. Winner announced September 9th.

 

 

 

How well do you know King Solomon?

 

photo credit: zeevveez via photopin cc

photo credit: zeevveez via photopin cc

When we think of King Solomon from the Bible, we think of the young man who, when asked by God what he would like, asked for a discerning mind (1 Kings 3:9). God was pleased with his request so gave him not only a wise and discerning mind superior to anyone’s before or since, he also made him the greatest king of his generation. Power, riches. Solomon had it all.

The Bible gives us an example of Solomon’s wisdom in the tale of the two prostitutes, one with a living child and one with a dead one, both claiming the living boy as their own. He quickly figured out who the mother was when he commanded the guards to cleave the infant in two.

The Bible tells us of the magnificent Temple that Solomon built and dedicated to the Lord. Of his wonderful prayer for the nation of Israel. And that he placed the Ark of the Covenant within the Temple so the Lord could reside forever with his people. Conditionally. If they obeyed. If Solomon obeyed…

The Bible also chronicles Solomon’s downfall.

Solomon is famous for having 700 wives and 300 concubines. He had a thing for foreign women, despite God’s prohibitions about intermarrying with foreigners who worshiped other gods. “But Solomon was irresistibly attracted to them.” (1 Kings 11:2). In other words, like all of us, he did what he wanted regardless. And we know Solomon knew better. He knew better than anyone, because he was the wisest of us all. And “When Solomon became old, his wives shifted his allegiance to other gods; he was not wholeheartedly devoted to the Lord his God, as his father David had been” (1 Kings 11:4). Solomon worshiped Astarte, Milcom, and even built shrines to “the detestable Chemosh.” 

I don’t know about you, but a couple of things strike me with Solomon. How could the wisest man who ever lived do such stupid things? I mean, really, he obviously had a thing for the ladies, but 1000 women? How could THAT have been a wise decision? And with all his wisdom and God’s repeated warnings about what would happen if Solomon didn’t obey, why would he let his wives worship their own gods? And why would he follow them?

ShebaAnd that’s what I love about Tosca Lee’s new story, Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen.  

The Legend of Sheba follows the story of the queen who ruled Sheba (modern day Ethiopia) during the reign of King Solomon. A queen every bit as intriguing as Solomon himself. While we learn a lot about the country of Sheba (Saba) and their social, religious, and political beliefs in this book, what will draw Christian readers is the conundrum of King Solomon. What Tosca Lee explores in this epic piece of historical fiction is the reasons King Solomon might have fallen away from God’s teachings and how and why King Solomon might have rationalized his choices.

This book is a creative adaptation of biblical characters drawn from the Bible and other ancient writings. It is realistic and rings of truth. It is beautifully written and achingly lovely.

Stay tuned. On Wednesday, we’ll have an interview with Tosca Lee, a surprise gift, and a chance to win Legend of Sheba!

NOW YOU: DID YOU KNOW THE SHOCKING TRUTH ABOUT KING SOLOMON? ;) 

A bad joke for my friends

Many of you already know my sense of humor. If so, you can stop reading here. :) Anyway, this joke came to mind after watching my very second Dr. Who episode (are they all so creepy?). The first one featured manikins coming to life and the second one was about very scary weeping angel statues.

photo credit: Madison Berndt via photopin cc

photo credit: Madison Berndt via photopin cc

One day a very rich Cajun decided to build a new house. He found a piece of land, hired a contractor, and told him just what he envisioned for his new place. The contractor did all the man asked, but wasn’t sure about one of the requests. The Cajun had told him that he wanted a “halo statue” in each room. The contractor scratched his head, asked people about it, but still didn’t know what a halo statue was. He finally decided that with most Cajuns being Catholic, the man must be referring to angel statues. So he bought one small angel statue for each room and put them in innocuous places.
 
The day came. It was time for the Cajun man to see his new home. The contractor toured him through the house and the Cajun made said a lot of positive things. But at the end of the tour he said, “It be lookin’ good, but I didn’t see no halo statues in any of the rooms.”
 
By this time, the contractor was too embarrassed to ask for clarification on the halo statues. He figured, maybe the angels were too small, or maybe he hadn’t displayed them prominently enough. He assured  the man he would have the problem fixed immediately. He got on the phone, called the place that furnished the angels and exchanged them for the biggest ones they had. This time, he even bought statues for all the bathrooms, storage rooms, and closets and put them in the most obvious places in all the rooms. Then he invited Mr. Thibodeaux back to look at his house.
 
This time, Mr. Thibodeaux didn’t say anything as he toured through the rooms. In fact, with each room they went through, Mr. Thibodeax’s frown increased as did the furrow on his brow. Finally, he burst out, “What’s wit all dem angels? And where are the halo statues?”
 
“I’m very sorry, Mr. Thibodeaux. I thought when you said halo statues you meant angel statues.”
 
Mr. Thibodeaux shook his head. “No, no. I meant one o’ dem tings that goes bring bring and then you pick it up and say ‘Halo statue?'”
 
See, bad joke, but it still makes me laugh. And before any one gets offended, I heard this from one of my Cajun uncles. ;)
 
And for those of you who didn’t get it. Here’s a clue: 
photo credit: jgh_photo via photopin cc

photo credit: jgh_photo via photopin cc

 
AND NOW: REALLY, ARE ALL THE DR. WHO EPISODES CREEPY?
Of the Persecuted (ebook cover)

Introducing Angie Brashear and Of the Persecuted

Author ANGIE BRASHEAR

Author ANGIE BRASHEAR

Angie is a great author and friend with a fantastic new novel. Not only does it have a DRAGON in it, but it’s a cool new world to hang out in. And there’s some romance too–just enough to keep things interesting. The book cover does a great job of capturing the tone of the book and its subject is appropriate to this day and age where our Christian brothers and sisters are facing persecution. The great thing is, in both instances, there is hope. :)

Anyway, help me welcome Angie as she tells us about her writing. And stay tuned to the end for a chance to win an e-copy of the book.

Hi Angie! Thanks for joining us today. The first question I always ask is this: do you consider yourself a Christian author or author of Christian fiction? What do you think the difference is?

AB: I consider myself a Christian author, because above all things, I am a Christian. As to the difference, I believe anyone can write Christian fiction for various purposes, such as targeting a certain audience for sales or even to present Christianity as a fantasy.

What was your inspiration for writing Of the Persecuted? Did you start with a setting, or a character, or a theme?

AB: My inspiration for Of the Persecuted was three-fold. First, as a child, a reading of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis opened my eyes to God, and inspired a desire to write. But I chose not to follow that path for too many reasons to explain in one interview.

Second, in January 2012, my assistant and I exchanged late Christmas gifts. During the exchange, we discussed the various challenges of our jobs and the “what ifs” of other possible employment endeavors. Cue the violin, right? I mean, a lot of people face stressful situations in the workplace on a daily basis. As we talked, my assistant said, “The longer I work with you, the more I imagine you as an author.” My jaw dropped, for I’d NEVER shared my deepest dream with her, or anyone else for that matter. I squeezed the lovely gift in my hands. She smiled and glanced at the journal. “Whenever you’re ready,” she said as she walked out of my office. For the next three months, I prayed.

Third, an image of a teenage girl awaiting death by hanging surfaced repeatedly as I sought God’s guidance. A torrent of fright, insecurity, anger, and determination filled her eyes. And Laila Pennedy was born. So, a character was the final component of my inspiration. Once I understood her, the setting and theme fell in place.

Sounds like you were meant to be a writer. :) One of the things I liked best about your book was the story world you created. How long did it take you to put it together? How much did you have before you started writing and how much came to you as you went along?

AB: Well, I’m a pantser not a plotter. As I wrote Laila’s story, which took seven months of late night writing, the world fell in place around her. From one scene to the next, her emotions—insecurity, fear, anger, curiosity, disbelief—compelled me to imagine the world from her perspective. Though, as I wrote, I did keep story world notes to ensure consistency from beginning to end.

When I first read your book, it had a different title and cover. I like both the title and cover much better now. Especially the cover, because it is very compelling. Tell us about the process of designing the new cover. How much say did you have into the concept and final product?

AB: Thanks Lisa. At the last minute, I chose to make many changes to the release of my debut novel, including a transition from a traditional to an indie publishing route—all prayer led, of course. I was never crazy about the original title, Never Let Go, but also couldn’t think of a better alternative. The original cover belonged to the traditional publisher. When I made the switch to indie publishing, the new title, Of the Persecuted, pretty much just slapped me in the face one evening, and then I stumbled upon—okay, God led me to—an amazing cover designer, Christa Holland at Paper & Sage Design. And by amazing, I mean AMAZING. I told her I imagined a close-up of a girl (not a full face) with a noose around her neck. She imagined something more abstract, a design that allowed readers to look at the scene with the main character rather than readers just looking at her. She read selected portions of the story and created the cover. As soon as I saw the design, I fell in love with it.

It is a fantastic design. Now, can you tell us something about Of the Persecuted that you know but isn’t in the book? Perhaps something about the dragons?

AB: Oh, yes. I love to drop hints about upcoming storylines. In Of the Persecuted, Gus is thought to be the only living dragon, or at least the only dragon seen in many years, and the only dragon to ever work on behalf of the Maker. In Legends of the Woodlands: Book Two, Of the Coldblooded, an army of dragons exists. Whether they fight for the Faithful or the Clan, well, I’ll keep that to myself for now.

What are you working on now?

AB: I’m working on Of the Coldblooded, and am halfway finished with the first draft. The story picks up with a blissful, over-confident Laila. But circumstances force her to embrace darkness. I expect to release the novel at beginning to mid-2015.

And before you go, what is one thing you’d like your readers to know?

AB: I’m a work in progress, but aren’t we all?

Yes, yes we are. :D

You can connect with Angie at her website, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

And now, an excerpt.

Of the Persecuted (ebook cover)

Laila Pennedy’s heart pounded.

The noose pinched her neck. She struggled for breath. Muffled voices drifted from the crowd up to the gallows. To her left, a long line of captives trembled. And right, past her brother, more than fifty Faithfuls hung limp, swaying above the platform. She stood on a large wooden barrel in the middle of the line. Too many would die today.

Beyond the mass of enemies, archers congregated amidst scattered stone cottages and log homes in the quaint village. Dilapidated, individual gallows dotted the hillside. Farther in the distance, the morning sun shone on the peaks of the Willow Mountains, her refuge since Faithfuls lost the War of Submission. Oh, what she wouldn’t give to be in the coolness of the upper forest, in exile with other Faithfuls. Safe from the enemy.

If only…. Instead, rivulets of sweat trickled down her thighs inside wool leggings, into knee-high leather boots. Her sleeveless, broadcloth dress clung to her skin, the once beautiful cloth ragged and cinched at her waist by a dingy belt. Her long, matted blonde hair stuck to her face and neck. So much for the gorgeous locks her mother once adored.

“Laila,” her older brother said, his raspy voice tugging at her heart as he too awaited death.

She forced herself to look into Niles’s tear-filled, deep green eyes and shuddered at the noose around his neck. If only she could reach out to him one last time, but her arms were bound behind her back. Soreness strained her shoulders. Her raw wrists stung under the taut rope, which had ripped open her skin.

“I’m sorry, Sissy,” Niles mouthed.

Sorry? She shook her head. No, this was her fault.

I bet you can’t wait to read what happens next. I know but I’m not telling. :p

SO TELL US, HAS SOMEONE EVER TOLD YOU THAT THEY COULD SEE YOU IN A DIFFERENT TYPE OF JOB? IF SO, WHAT?

GIVEAWAY: COMMENT BELOW AND TELL US YOU’D LIKE TO BE ENTERED IN THE DRAWING. Winners announced August 25. Must be 18 or older. No purchase necessary.