Book Review: Lady Dragon, Tela Du

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My author friend Kendra E. Ardnek’s newest book released yesterday, and I’m pleased to share it with you all.

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When Fiction Seems Cooler Than Jesus

When Fiction Seems Cooler Than Jesus

Let’s face it: sometimes, fictional worlds just seem better than reality. Books, movies, TV shows – they’re usually crafted from stories created by writers.

 

I love all kinds of fiction, whether I’m absorbing an action-drama TV show or a riveting fantasy novel. In all honesty, they’re pretty great. We all love the well-developed characters – those people we can’t imagine not being real – the witty dialogue – the relationships between our “screen friends” – the realness of it all – the fact that we relate to it – the mood and setting – the music and filmography – the expressions – it’s the magic of everything working together that captivates us.

 

Maybe we like fiction because it’s an escape from reality. But at the same time, we want it to be realistic.

 

How on earth could this make any sense?

 

I believe we want reality in a neat little box. We want decisions to be simple, pain to be controlled, good to always win, and to be involved in something incredible. We want heroism. We want victory. We want to experience something powerful and bigger than ourselves.

 

But in our lives, neatness is not usually the case. Decisions are rarely black and white, with one choice as good and another evil. Morality isn’t always clear.

 

Pain happens. Hearts break. Happy endings don’t always come together. And for crying out loud, folks, our lives often seem so boring. We’re not chasing bad guys or riding dragons or being heroes or going on adventures through space and time.

 

So we read about it, and we entertain ourselves with fantasies of what’s not quite possible for us in this world.

 

And honestly, fiction is FANTASTIC. We can be intimately involved in the lives of our favorite characters and live vicariously through them. I love that aspect of it so much.

 

What I don’t like is that when I’m so involved in a world of writing, acting, and fangirly feels, my longing for the Bible tends to decrease. But why is this? As a girl who desperately wants to wholeheartedly desire the Word of God, I find myself frustrated when I feel like the Bible has become a chore.

 

I want to make sure it’s clear that I’m not trying to preach at anyone here, or demean fiction, or make it sound like I’m super-spiritual or something. I deal with the same things you do. I sometimes struggle to find motivation to read the Bible, as opposed to the novel beside my bed. I’m not perfect whatsoever, and I’m pulled between reading a devotion and watching my favorite show.

 

I don’t judge those who struggle to desire to read the Bible, because I think we’ll all encounter that sometime in our lives.

 

But what about when fictional realities seem more attractive than real life?

 

What do we enjoy about fantasy that makes us want to stay there, and what is it about the Bible that we treat it like work or obligation?

 

When did we forget that the Bible, salvation, and our very faith affects the whole universe, and those things are significantly larger than ourselves? When did we let our views of God’s amazing love and grace become dulled?

 

I’m addressing questions just like this in the book I’m writing right now. I don’t have every answer, but I’m really enjoying sharing my heart on such issues and further solidifying what I believe. I finished up Camp NaNoWriMo with 17,131 words, and while I’m still technically on the third (very very long) chapter, I’m getting so far.

 

Instead of trying to answer all the questions a lot of us have, I’m just going to ask us to think:

 

What’s so cool about fiction that it often seems cooler than Jesus?

Why does faith sometimes take the back burner when it comes to entertainment?

What can we do to grow in our hearts the desire of knowing Jesus better?

 

I’ll leave you with that for the night, because it’s extremely late and I’m losing coherence. For more posts on Bible reading, see these:

 

// The Bible Is Not A Burden: 3 Truths About God’s Word

 

// How to Read the Bible {effectively spending time with our Heavenly Father}

 

// Why Should I Read the Bible?

 

*aj

It’s My Blogiversary!

It's My Blogiversary!

TODAY IS MY ONE-YEAR BLOGIVERSARY! *cue confetti*

 

Wow, this year has been incredible. I had no idea I would ever come this far, and it’s only been one year.

 

I’ve gotten views from over 80 countries, have accumulated 180 followers, and 1,200 comments have been posted.

 

I’ve posted 116 blog posts on this site, and have learned so much.

 

To all of you who comment regularly, thank you. Without your encouragement, I’m not sure if I would have pressed on during those difficult nights when I really just wanted to go to bed.

 

Thank you to all of you readers, whether you’ve commented or not. Seeing new followers every few days makes my heart so happy.

 

Since February 17th, 2015, I’ve learned to stick to my word. When I say I’m going to post every Tuesday and Saturday, I really do mean it. I’ve grown in my faith by staying in the Bible and writing out the truths I know in my heart. I’ve met so many wonderful people, had so many uplifting conversations, and personally matured so much.

 

Through this blog, I’ve found my voice. For years, it’s been so hard for me to speak my heart as a naturally quiet and reserved person. But through blogging, I’ve gotten to know myself, developed my writing, and pursued my passion for sharing Jesus with the world.

 

It’s been great.

 

I have a survey at the end of this post, and I would so appreciate it if you all would take five minutes to fill it out. I’m trying to improve my blog the best I can this next year. But before I do that, I’d like to give a few updates.

 

Firstly, even though I didn’t start out this way, I’m now responding to all of your comments. So don’t be shy! Chime in on my posts, and we can discuss. I love getting to know new people and seeing your points of view.

 

Secondly, you can follow me on social media. I’m on Google+, Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

 

Thirdly, I’m no longer doing tags or blog awards. Thank you all so much for nominating me time and time again, but I tend not to get around to them and find them not to (usually) fit my blog.

 

Fourthly, I’m starting to experiment with graphic design via Canva. It takes me longer to make a header than just picking a stock photo, but I’m enjoying using it (and I’m also enjoying its benefits through social media).

 

Fifthly, if you’d like me to write a guest post for one of your blogs, feel free to email me through the Contact Me form. I’d like to branch out and do more of that this year as I’m available.

 

Here’s that survey I was telling you about.

 

Thank you all for your readership. I know that I wouldn’t be where I am without all of you, and for that, I’m extremely grateful.

 

*aj

How Simple is The Gospel?

How Simple is The Gospel?.jpg

 

The older I get, the more I realize how complicated the world is. In areas of worldviews, politics, education, and religion, there is such a diverse spectrum.

 

A few nights ago, while watching the news, I was informed of a religion that holds the view that spaghetti created the universe and therefore spaghetti is the center. A lady’s driver’s license picture was taken with a strainer on her head, because apparently, if she was prohibited from doing so, it would be considered discrimination. All due respect to these people, but that’s slightly crazy.

 

Anyway, that’s not really my point here. My point is that the world is complicated. Things are diverse. And we tend to listen to the craziness at times.

 

What I’m trying to do here is to direct our attention to all the different sects of Christianity, and those that complicate the Gospel.

 

A lot of people claim that all “true Christians” look alike – we all can perform miracles, be excellent leaders, be really good people, and so on. Therefore, it is concluded that if you can’t or don’t do any of these things, you’re not really a Christian.

 

While I do believe that some can do these things and show themselves to be good people, salvation can’t come from these things. Rather, these things are examples of what can pour out of a Christian’s life.

 

This is where simplicity comes in.

 

The Gospel is beautiful because it isn’t dependent on us. Because we are sinful, we do not deserve heaven or any kind of forgiveness. Nevertheless, salvation is a free gift to all who would accept it.

 

I heard a story a few weeks ago that really made me think. Oftentimes, skeptics ask the question, “If God truly is good, why does He allow bad things to happen to good people?” But the speaker came back with the question, “If we truly are sinful, why does God allow good things to happen to [us] bad people?”

 

Implied in this story is what we all know deep inside – we aren’t perfect. As much as we can strive to be good people, we can never measure up to God’s standard of perfection. (Romans 3:23.) God knows this, and that is why He made the Gospel so simple.

 

John 3:16

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

 

Eternal life is life to the full now and life for eternity in heaven. But how do we get it? Believing in Jesus.

 

John 14:6

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”

 

By believing, we accept that our goodness can never measure up to God’s standard, but that Jesus’ can and did. That He is the only way to Heaven, the only atonement for our sins, and by accepting Him and Him alone will we find eternal life.

 

Romans 10:9-10

“Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

 

Salvation is so easy. We believe and we confess to that belief. Even though we do not deserve it whatsoever, it is freely given to us.

 

Acts 4:12

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

 

I know that people claim that Christianity is intolerant because we say that Jesus is the ONLY way to God. I’m not intolerant of others at all. In fact, I respect all people because they were all made and are loved by God. But I can not go against what I believe to say that there is more than one way to be saved, for that would be contradicting what I believe. And if you’re tolerant of what I believe, why are you intolerant to my so-called intolerance? Wouldn’t that be discriminating against me?

 

I know, it sounds ridiculous if I argue it that way. Simply put, though, there is no other way to Heaven but by Jesus. If you want to argue…don’t argue with me, but the One who wants to save your soul.

 

Or maybe…just accept it.

 

I’m not trying to step on toes here. I know that Christianity can seem complicated, just like so much of the world is. What I’m here to say is that it’s not that complicated. God loves everyone and wants to save every one of us; if He didn’t, why would Jesus have come?

 

Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved (Acts 16:31, paraphrased).

 

*aj

The Problem With The “Christian” Label

The Problem With The Christian Label

We people of earth tend to put a label on things to categorize it. “Clothing.” “Food.” “Books.” “Electronics.”

What we all know (or at least should) is that not everything in the same category serves the same purpose.

For example, when you go clothes shopping in preparation for the cold winter, you’re (hopefully) not going to buy crop tops and short shorts. When you go food shopping for a nice dinner party that you’re hosting, you’re not going to buy circus peanuts for an appetizer. When you want to buy a bookworm a book for their birthday, you’re not going to buy them a textbook on quantum mechanics 401 (unless that’s exactly what they want, of course). When someone wants ‘a portable electronic device,’ you probably will not buy them a bulky desktop computer.

We have discernment when it comes to these things, and obviously use common sense. Think hard about what you want to get, and then get it. Get the right thing, not some imitation or replacement. Get the real thing.

Here’s where the mistake comes in.

We tell ourselves that anything with the label “Christian” on it must be good.

And then we are led so far astray from truth, that we confuse ourselves greatly.

Going back to the previous analogy, if you want clothes for winter, make sure you know what you need and exactly what you want to get, and then get it.

As Christians, this happens all too often.

Friend: “The podcast from so-and-so’s church is so great! Go listen to it!”

Us: “Seriously? That sounds nice. What church is it?”

Friend: “It’s really popular here in [thisbigcity] and they definitely believe in Jesus and stuff. All I know is that it’s Christian, which is all that matters.”

Us: “Popular? And Christian? Cool. Where can I find the podcast?”

This is a huge mistake. When we hear the word Christian, our guards go down and we have a tendency to just accept it because if it’s Christian, well then obviously it must be true.

But that’s not how we treat food! Just because it says “food,” doesn’t mean we should eat it. What about cat food or plant food? Of course you would not eat that. I would not eat that. “Food” is taken way out of context, and of course we have to be discerning when it comes to what kinds of food to eat and not to eat.

Even when it comes to filet mignon versus circus peanuts. They’re both food, yes. Are they both equal? NO WAY.

What we do is we hear the “Christian” label slapped on anything that mentions Jesus, and we accept it as if it’s from the mouth of God Himself, as if anything mentioning God gets His approval.

Let’s face it.

We go to conferences with our youth groups, soaking up every word because of course He’s preaching the Bible (all the while listening because He’s the top youth speaker in the country, of course, and a good Christian!).

We listen to sermons, expecting that everything the preacher says is going to line up with the Bible 100%.

We turn on K-LOVE or Air1 (or Christian music on Pandora, or whatever), and expect every song to be biblically based, because we assume that everybody who proclaims the name of Jesus must have it all figured out.

We go into Christian bookstores and let ourselves grab whatever book we so desire, because if the Christian store carries it, then it must be totally right and absolutely trustworthy.

That’s like us walking into Macy’s and buying clothes because they’re in the clothes department.

We go in with good intentions, but come out a confused and worse-off mess.

Christianity is about being saved by Jesus, absolutely. But as a Christian, you’re not constantly in the process of being saved, because Jesus has already saved you­. After you’ve accepted Jesus, it’s time to grow.

You need the right kind of food to grow, not just any food. Candy does not have nutritional value, honestly, and if you expect to grow because you’re liking what you eat, well, good luck with that.

As naïve people, we tend to flock to shiny and nice things. Think of those “name-it-and-claim-it” preachers, the ones that say that “if you just have enough faith, you’ll be a millionaire in no time flat!”

Excuse me, but where exactly in the Bible is that taught? And if this world is my temporary home, how will being rich and living the dream let me “set my mind on things above” (Colossians 3:2)?

I’m saying these things because false doctrine is really sneaky.

Doctrinal misleadings are subtle, most times. Some can come in the form of denominations that are heretical and yet claim to follow the Bible. Some are evangelists that say you have to earn your salvation, when it’s already been established that salvation is a free gift (Ephesians 2:8-9). Yet others are those who command that you must confess every single sin to God, even after you’re a Christian and God has already forgiven your sins through Jesus. Sin isn’t just forgiven, it’s forgotten and cast away (Micah 7:19, Hebrews 10:17). Those who force us via preaching, books, music, etc. to live seeing ourselves as sinners in the constant state of repentance instead of children of God that are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17, Romans 6:6) mislead us.

These are incredibly important distinctions to make.

“Christian” doesn’t mean guaranteed to be biblical. Just like “food” is not guaranteed to be healthy.

There are even some blogs I follow that I don’t completely agree with doctrinally. This doesn’t mean that I throw out everything they say, but that I filter through it. So many people have good points, which shouldn’t be discredited. What we should do, however, is view everything with discernment.

The more we read the Bible, the more we’ll be able to see things clearly.

We can’t afford to listen to everything under the sun that claims to be Christian, because that’s not using wisdom. We can, however, get to know the Bible better – in context and knowledge of proper audience, too. In turn, we will learn to discern the truth from the lies, and grow up to be healthy, wise believers.

*aj

Gender Roles in Marriage

Gender Roles in Marriage 

I know, I promised two more posts on feminism and gender roles. Here’s part 2 of 3.

In my last post, I talked about the dangers of our culture embracing feminism. I explained that our views of gender roles are distorted by the culture. When we are urged to make equality about sameness, we muddy the line between men and women.

I talked about us having different roles, because that’s how God designed it. Not because Amanda at Scattered Journal Pages said so, but because God did. And if the Creator of the Universe says something, well, you can’t exactly argue with that.

Ephesians 5 talks a lot about husbands loving their wives, and wives showing respect to their husbands.

While it’s quite long to post on my blog, here’s a link to where you can read it.

I’ve pulled out a verse that specifically stands out to me here, because I think that it’s important when establishing biblical roles of manhood and womanhood (and more specifically, husbandhood and wifehood, hehe).

Ephesians 5:33

“However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

Want a little more elaboration on the ‘husband love your wife,’ part?

Ephesians 5:25-27

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”

And on the ‘wife respect your husband’ part, too.

Ephesians 5:23-24

“For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”

Now, nobody freak out, okay? This isn’t me trying to say, “ALL YOU WOMEN! GET ON YOUR KNEES AND SERVE YOUR HUSBAND LIKE YOU’RE HIS SLAVE.” That’s absolutely ridiculous, okay?

The wife submits to and respects him. The husband loves her and sacrifices himself for her. It’s simple, really.

Galatians 3:18-19

“Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.”

This is a mutual commitment. It’s equal serving to one another. Neither spouse is taken advantage of this way, nor is it unfair.

Y’all, I know that a lot of us are young and/or single. I get it. I am too. But this doesn’t mean we can disregard what the Bible says on this matter.

I’m going to do the thing where I quote myself, okay? This is what I said in my last post.

“[W]hat I am saying is that when we forget the distinction between genders, and implant feminism into the way we think, we have a chance of crossing the lines of biblical femininity and masculinity. We discredit our self-worth and ascribe it to what we accomplish or prove.

I’m not saying men are better than women. We are absolutely 100% equal. However, we cannot make our roles identical, for to do so would be to discredit the uniqueness of each gender and therefore God’s design.”

As men and women of God, we can’t forget who we are.

I’ll talk about this more on Saturday wherein I attempt to discuss what it looks like to live biblically as a single. (I can’t promise anything there, so here, you are warned.)

*aj

God Fell In Love With Us? Oh. Right.

God Fell In Love With Us? Oh. Right.

Clichés drive me crazy. Especially those Christian ones.

(Sorry, that was an abrupt beginning.)

There are a lot of cliché phrases that go around in Christian circles, especially ones that take the place of solid theology.

There’s a way of thinking that goes around, even from pastors(!). It goes something like this.

“God fell in love with His people, and so He sent His Son to die for us!”

So, God fell in love with you?

“Fell in love”?

When I think of falling in love, I think of romance with out someone’s own consent; a relationship that “just happened;” a love formed of SURPRISE! emotions, and basically the first half of Taylor Swift songs.

So when I think of God falling in love with us, I think of an emotion. An impulse. Something that had to do with our performance.

But right here in the Bible, we know that we are horrible, sinful, wretched sinners.

And it was then that Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

That blows my mind, and shows me something amazing.

Love is a choice.

God did not fall in love with us, He chose to love us.

1 John 4:19

“We love because he first loved us.”

I know, this is such a simple concept. But it’s really important to note.

Because once we realize that God’s love for us is a conscious choice, it makes it so much sweeter. Nothing we could ever do could make us deserve God’s love. That is just so incredibly amazing to me, that He chose to love us, at our absolute darkest.

When I understand His love, I want to show that love to others. I want to inhale His grace and exhale His forgiveness! I want to be so full of Him, that when I tip, love pours out.

Even when tough things come along, I know that God’s love is stronger than everything. He didn’t have to love me. I did not deserve it in the least.

I’m a broken and utterly flawed human being. I deserve eternal punishment. But God had mercy on me, and extended grace to me.

I find that to be the most awe-inspiring and mind-blowing thing ever.

I’m caught between wanting to fall to my knees and worship and wanting to run to my roof and scream that Jesus saves. I will write until the whole world hears…

JESUS CAME TO SAVE YOU! REGARDLESS OF YOUR PAST, PRESENT, OR FUTURE! FORGETTING YOUR REPUTATION, THE MISTAKES YOU’VE MADE, AND WHERE YOU ARE RIGHT NOW.

JESUS WILL SAVE YOU, JUST ACCEPT IT! BELIEVE AND RECEIVE.

And there’s my little speech.

God didn’t fall in love with us, He chose to love us.

Even though we’ve turned our backs on Him, His love still stands.

Even though we can’t repay Him, His grace still extends to us.

He does not want to see anyone perish.

2 Peter 3:9

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

*aj

I’m A Christian, And Also An Introvert

Woman, Mountain

As you all probably know…I’m an introvert.

INFJ, to be exact, which just so happens to be the rarest personality type in the world.

As an introvert, I enjoy solitude, find my best friendships one-on-one (as opposed to in a group setting), and I feel most comfortable at home. Preferably with a book, cup of tea or coffee, and gentle music in my earbuds.

All bookishness aside (though I would gladly talk about my love for books for hours), it’s part of my personality that I’m not very much of a social butterfly. I love people…one-on-one.

I find that a lot of times I lose myself in a group and find myself off to the side. I’d much rather converse with one friend than contribute to a group conversation in which we talk about pointless things.

That’s just who I am, and I’m still trying to accept the fact that 90% of my friends are extroverts and introverts understand me so much more. But it’s okay.

See, as humans, we all are different. Very different in fact. There’s not a right or a wrong personality, just like it’s not right to be a bus driver and wrong to be a waiter. Everyone has different gifts, and they’re all really important, especially as Christians.

God made us all with a purpose and a plan!

Psalm 139:14

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

For me, that’s a relief, because a lot of times, I feel like there must be something wrong with me. Social situations can be quite awkward, even if I know exactly what’s going on. Why don’t I just connect with friendly people my age?

Although I can’t really answer that, because I don’t really know, I do know that I have a purpose.

1 Corinthians 12:14-18

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.

I’ve come to understand that there’s nothing really wrong with me. I’m a rare introvert, and while I wish I had closer friendships, God has made me to be me. And I have a purpose in an extroverted world…even when it seems as though I’m a circular puzzle piece in a square-jigsaw-puzzle of a world.

As a Christian, I’m realizing that while having a unique personality is all well and good, it’s really important what we do with it.

Do I keep quiet about my faith in compromising situations because I’m “not comfortable” with speaking up and obeying my convictions?

Do I ignore the New Kid because I feel like introducing myself will be awkward?

Do I refuse to serve at church in a position that’s out of my comfort zone?

Do I ignore the Holy Spirit’s prompting to share the Gospel because “it doesn’t feel right”?

This is where, as a member of the Body of Christ, I can get in trouble.

Because God doesn’t call us specifically to comfort.

Oh yes, He uses us right where we are. In fact, I don’t know if I’d be blogging if I spoke all these words instead of writing them.

But if God calls us to do something, we are wrong to refuse it because it’s “not our thing”.

We are all different, but we are all called to be salt and light in a dark world, and to share the Gospel.

It’s never easy, and it’s something that I think we all need to work on.

So, I’m going to take advantage of who God has made me to be. Places like this blog give me the opportunity to share my faith. Having close friendships help me to have meaningful discussions about important matters. Solitude helps me to get to know who God is more and more. When it’s quiet, and I feel alone, I remember that God is always with me and He will never leave.

But also, I’m going to take advantage of the opportunities that God puts in my path to serve Him, and I’m not going to rely on comfort to make decisions for me.

I have decided that I will live my life for my Lord, who has loved me first and saved my soul. It doesn’t matter if befriending someone is awkward; if God is nudging me to do something, I will do it. For living for Him is all that matters. Here and Now will fade away, but God stands for all eternity.

My personality doesn’t get me off the hook for serving God. I have a part to play in this world. I have so many opportunities, both within my comfort zone and outside of it, and I’m not going to give them up.

2 Timothy 1:8-9

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began[.]

We have a holy calling. Isn’t that amazing? Let’s follow after God in what He is calling us to do, both in what comes easy, and what we have to rely on God’s strength for.

It’s not about us, it’s about Him.

Yes, I’m still an introvert. But yes, I am still a Christian. I have a different personality than most people, and I have a place in the Body of Christ. But I’m not limited…for God has plans for me, bigger than I could dream of. And I desire to be used by God.

*aj