Tuesday, September 5, 2017

New September Christian Fiction Releases 2017

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:
Planting Hope by Brenda S. Anderson -- Jess Beaumont is trying to get her separated parents together again by restoring the family cabin gardens that helped them fall in love. Luke Harrison inherited his Gran’s candy store, but would rather have a Vice President position in his family’s land development business—a sure sign of his father’s approval. To get the promotion, he must acquire the land on both sides of his store within five months, including the Beaumont cabin. As Luke gets to know Jess, he realizes buying the Beaumont cabin and land will nip their blossoming romance in the bud. Even worse, it could end her parents’ marriage. But if he doesn’t succeed, he could be trading his corner office for the candy store counter…for good. Is their romance doomed? Or could the classic combination of chocolate and flowers solve everything? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

An Amish Christmas Love by Amy Clipston, Kelly Irvin, Ruth Reid, and Beth Wiseman -- Fall in love this Christmas to the gentle pace of Amish courtship. In Winter Kisses by Beth Wiseman, six lonely hearts find healing in the Stoltzfus homestead basement while waiting out a Christmas Eve storm. In The Christmas Cat by Amy Clipston, a group of young people and a forbidden house cat bring reminders of love and hope to a grieving widow at Christmas. In Snow Angels by Kelly Irvin, A young woman’s prayer for a Christmas proposal is delayed by the appearance of her potential groom’s first love, whom me met on his rumspringa. In Home for Christmas by Ruth Reid, an Englisch woman thinks she’s breaking into the house her aenti left to her, only to discover she’s trespassing upon an Amish widower and his young daughter, whose quiet way of life tempts her to stay. (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

Magnolia Storms by Janet W. Ferguson --Maggie Marovich lost her father to Hurricane Katrina, so she’s dedicated her life to meteorology and plans never to return to the Mississippi Coast or the ship pilot she once loved—until a family crisis sends her running headlong into a storm. (Contemporary, Independently Published)

The Christmas Admirer by Laura V. Hilton -- Susanna’s left with three options: one, go with Daed to his new home with a new mom; two, stay in Jamesport, Missouri, as an old maid; or, three, the best yet, flush out her mysterious secret admirer. But how could she be with anyone else when her heart is still with Benaiah? (Contemporary Romance from Whitaker House)

Finding Love in Friday Harbor, Washington by Annette Irby -- Professor Mikaela Rhoades has a plan: she’ll encourage her students’ marine biology research through an exclusive program while helping an old family friend’s whale touring business stay afloat. The challenge is the tour captain is her first love and ex-fiancĂ©. Mikaela longs to help his family in the wake of his father’s death, but she’s keeping secrets. Captain Hunter Cahill has taken over the family touring business after his father’s death. Unfortunately, he’s drowning in grief and accumulated debt. To make matters more difficult, he’d promised his father to pursue Mikaela if she ever returned to the island single. But what will it cost him to spend the summer romancing Mikaela? (Contemporary Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)

Returning Home by Toni Shiloh -- Jo Ellen Baker is shocked to find out that the boy who teased her mercilessly throughout high school, has returned to their hometown of Freedom Lake, and he’s missing a leg. When his mother asks her to renovate their carriage house to give him a place to gain his independence back, she wants to say no. But one look at him brings a rush of forgotten feelings. Evan Carter can’t believe he has to return home and live with his parents. Every hope and dream he ever had dissipated in a car crash that cost him his leg. Stuck in a wheelchair, he’s forced to reexamine his relationship with God and the local carpenter, Jo Ellen Baker. Will renovating his home open the door for a mended relationship, or are some wounds too deep to heal from? (Contemporary, Independently Published)

All This Time by Melissa Tagg -- Ten years ago, Bear McKinley gave up everything—his freedom and his reputation—for his mess of a family. But after years of distance and too many attempts at starting over, he finally has a new life doing noble work in Brazil . . . until his past catches up to him. Raegan Walker is happy working a slew of part-time jobs, still living in her childhood bedroom and rarely venturing from her hometown. At least, that’s what she tells everyone . . . and herself. But she can’t help wondering what might’ve happened if she hadn’t abandoned her art so many years ago—and if Bear McKinley had never left. When Bear returns and she’s commissioned for a painting that just might revive her artistic ambition all in one week, it’s time to finally reach for more. But doing so means facing the fears that have held her back all this time, including admitting the secret she’s kept from Bear and her family. With her dream and her heart on the line, how much will Raegan have to risk to finally chase her happy ending? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Home All Along by Beth Wiseman -- Charlotte has made a home for herself in Amish Country with Daniel. But unforeseen events rock their fragile world and may move them even further away from the life they long for. Charlotte, an Englisher, is living in Amish Country, and fallen in love with an Amish man. But just when she is considering a permanent conversion to the Amish way of life, her world crashes around her. An unexpected death and a mysterious visitor unsettle Charlotte, and she begins to question her faith and her choices. Will Charlotte and Daniel’s relationship succumb to the many pressures around them, or will their faith and community help them become strong enough to build a life together? (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

General Contemporary:

Mercy Triumphs by Jana Kelley -- Mia, an American Christian, has lived in Sudan so long that persecution, harassment, and danger have become commonplace for her. Her tough outer shell threatens to harden her heart while her newly Christian friends, Halimah and Rania, former Muslims, are forced to live in exile outside Sudan. All three quickly discover that escaping danger in one place only means facing even greater challenges elsewhere. As God’s mercy becomes evident in their lives, they must choose whether or not to offer mercy to those who don’t deserve it. Based on real-life events, Mercy Triumphs reveals some of the struggles Christians face when living under Islamic law. (General from New Hope Publishers)

Life in Chapel Springs by Ane Mulligan -- Is it a midlife pregnancy or ... cancer? Claire will keep her secret until she’s sure but it isn’t easy. Neither is trying to buy a home pregnancy test without anyone finding out. Between her twins double wedding, the caterer cancelling, a looming nationwide art tour and her health, Claire s life is upside down. Meanwhile, shy Lacey Dawson faces the emotional effects of traumatic injuries requiring facial reconstruction, and rumors of gold in Chapel Springs have greedy investors clamoring to buy all the homes in town and mine the gold. Will life in Chapel Springs ever be the same? (General from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)


A Conspiracy of Breath by Latayne C. Scott -- What would it have been like to be a woman, a Gentile, and someone onto whom the Holy Breath moved - to produce what became the mysterious Epistle to the Hebrews in the Bible? (Historical from TSU Press [Trinity Southwest University])

Queen of Sheba by Jill Eileen Smith -- King Solomon meets his equal in the Queen of Sheba and does his best to give her everything she seeks to find, but will he be able to give her the deepest longing of her heart? (Historical from Revell - A Division of Baker Publishing)

Historical Romance:

These Healing Hills by Ann H. Gabhart -- When life takes an unexpected turn, Francine Howard finds work in the mountains as a midwife where healing and love await her. (Historical Romance from Revell - A Division of Baker Publishing)

12 Days at Bleakly Manor by Michelle Griep -- Clara Chapman receives an intriguing invitation and is promised a sum of five hundred pounds if she will remain a guest at Bleakly Manor for the duration of a twelve-day Christmas celebration. Then she learns Benjamin Lane, who left her at the altar, is also in attendance. Imprisoned unjustly, Ben wants revenge on whomever stole his honor. Torn between money, revenge, and love, will Clara and Ben last the full twelve days at Bleakly Manor and learn what matters most at Christmas? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)


When the Bishop Needs and Alibi by Vannetta Chapman -- Amish bishop Henry Lapp eagerly awaits the annual arrival of 20,000 sandhill cranes to the San Luis Valley of Colorado. But his visit to the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge reveals more than just a miracle of God's creation. Hidden among the bulrushes and cattails is the deceased body of a young woman. As the local authorities attempt to unravel the mystery, Henry feels God's calling to use his extraordinary talent to aid in the investigation. His ability to draw from memory in photographic detail could help solve this puzzling case. Henry's closest friend, Emma Fisher, has always urged him to embrace his gift. As their relationship deepens, Henry realizes his involvement could put him and those he loves in the direct path of a killer, one who is willing to do anything to cover up a brutal crime, including framing the bishop. (Mystery from Harvest House)

The House Next Door by Susan Page Davis -- As Jennifer’s due date approaches, Harvey decides to invest in real estate, unaware of the terror this will cause his family. A hidden cupboard isn’t so bad—in fact, it’s almost fun to try to solve the little mystery inside it. But will any of their loved ones want to live next door after they learn what’s in the basement? (Mystery, Independently Published)

Solve by Christmas by Amber Schamel -- Detective Jasper Hollock thought he wanted nothing more than a real case. But when the man who raised him stands on the brink of suicide and mysterious incidents sabotage the factory, Jasper has 24 days to unravel the malicious plot and convince his employer that life is worth living. (Mystery, Independently Published)
Romantic Suspense:
Justice Buried by Patricia Bradley -- A security specialist is accused of murder and must clear her name or her career is over, but her investigation draws her into the path of a killer, and she finds herself fighting for her life. When a man from her past is called in to investigate, she may find that he's the biggest security threat yet . . . to her heart. (Romantic Suspense from Revell - A Division of Baker Publishing)

Rescued Hearts by Hope Toler Dougherty -- An innocent bike ride leads to a hostage situation, jeopardizing an undercover mission and two stubborn hearts. (Romantic Suspense from Mantle Rock Publishing)

Deadly Proof by Rachel Dylan -- A female attorney hires a former Army Ranger turned private investigator to help research an alleged pharmaceutical cover-up. As the case deepens, both hearts and lives become endangered. It appears someone is willing to risk everything--even murder--to keep the case from going to trial. (Romantic Suspense from Bethany House [Baker])

Uncharted Hope by Keely Brooke Keith -- Sophia Ashton must prove herself in her new job while researching the gray leaf medicine and dealing with her toxic family. (Romantic Suspense from Edenbrooke Press)

Crown of Souls by Ronie Kendig -- Perhaps the only person as skilled as Cole "Tox" Russell is Alec King, a rogue Special Forces operator who vanished months ago. Now he’s back, and he's out for justice. Furious with orders that got his men killed, he intends to make those responsible pay. And he insists Tox join him, believing they are the same breed of soldier. Afraid his old friend could be right, Tox battles a growing darkness within himself as he and his team are forced into another deadly encounter with antiquity. It appears Alec is harnessing the power of a mysterious artifact, a crown that history has linked to some of the worst slaughters in humanity. Racing to stop Alec before his vengeance is unleashed, Tox must fight the monster without becoming one. (Military Suspense from Bethany House [Baker])

Witness Protection by Carol Kinsey -- After four years in witness protection, Ty Westgate’s identity has been exposed - with the help of a struggling nurse, the ex-lawyer with a new faith must work to unravel the truth behind his adversaries before he’s silenced permanently. (Thriller/Suspense, Independently Published)     Save Save Save

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Four Ways to Find Personal Limitations

Personal limitations deal with those areas which are wrong for you personally. These boundaries do not apply to everyone. They may or may not change as you age. Rather, they protect an area of brokenness where your ability to separate good and evil is hampered. As a result, your limitations are particular to you. How then do you figure out which limitations you need?

1. Know your heart. We have all sinned and have been impacted by sin (Romans 3:23). How sin impacts us, however, varies from person to person. Some deal with tempers. Others struggle with lust. Or perhaps greed or worry is your particular difficulty. The key is to identify the area(s) of weakness. So what is your personality? What tempts you most? What do you tend to overindulge in—whether an activity, food, or type of media? What do you fear? Which lies do you tend to believe? The answers can point to an area of weakness.
2. Observe your actions. Actions often speak louder than words. So pay attention to how you react to what is going on around you. What distracts you from what you should be doing? What disturbs your sleep? What angers or depresses? These might point to potential problems.
3. Consider your relationships. We live in a broken world. This means we don’t live alone. It also means the people around us are broken too. And people affect people. What you do can affect me. What I do can affect you. Now I’m not responsible for your actions. But I am responsible for mine. So am I choosing relationships that will strengthen me rather than prey on my weaknesses? More than that, am I acting in a way that strengthens others rather than preying on their weaknesses—what Scripture calls placing a stumbling block in front of my brother? Is there a way I need to limit myself for the sake of those around me—whether a child, a spouse, or a friend?
4. Finally, check your environment. Personal limitations deal with blind spots. Blind spots frequently develop from desensitization. Desensitization results from constant exposure. So what errors are you consistently exposed to due to the area you live in, the occupation you work at, or the people you engage with? You may need extra safety measures in these areas.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Personal Limitations: Dealing with Blind Spots

Biblical literacy defines what is good. Spiritual maturity allows us to separate good and evil, in order that we might keep the good and throw the bad. In theory, this is all we should require to discern.

The reality is that we live in a broken world, where things don’t always work as they ought. Indeed, we ourselves are broken. So although God is mending us who follow Christ day by day, we all have areas of weaknesses, places where good and evil simply won’t separate, no matter how hard we try.

This is why we need to be aware of our personal limitations. Personal limitations are the extra boundaries we place on ourselves due to a weakness hampering our ability to separate good and evil. So what we are guarding against is not necessarily the evil. We are guarding against an area of personal danger—a blind spot wherein we cannot see clearly. For if we can’t see clearly, we cannot separate, and if we can’t separate, we can’t discern.

Therefore, personal limitations provide us an extra layer of protection for where we currently lack discernment. They help guard us against fallacies which would exploit our weaknesses. They defend against those weaknesses being used to infect the rest of our lives. Personal limitations shield us from driving unintentionally over a cliff to our deaths. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

New Christian Fiction for August 2017

For more in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.


Imperfect Lies by Elizabeth Noyes -- When another woman emerges from the past to claim Mallory Cameron's happily ever after, she cuts her losses and sets out to find a headline-worthy story to launch her journalism career. She embarks on a whirlwind journey that takes her across the United States, to the blue-green waters of the Caribbean, on to sunny Mexico, and deep into the dangerous parts of Africa where terror reigns. James Evers turned his back on a life of power and privilege to carve a place in the world for himself. Now that he's finally discovered his niche as a small-town sheriff and found the woman he wants in his future, a past indiscretion struts in on high heels and sends his newfound love fleeing headlong into peril. His mission: neutralize old enemies, defuse new threats, resolve past mistakes, settle family disputes, and—most importantly—find and rescue his woman from terrorists before the unthinkable happens. (Action/Adventure from Write Integrity Press)

Contemporary Romance:

The Bachelor’s Unexpected Family by Lisa Carter -- Young widow Kristina Montgomery moves to Kiptohanock, Virginia, hoping it will give her and her teenage son, Gray, a fresh start. She longs for the peace and quiet only a small town can provide. But her plans are thwarted by her new neighbor, Canyon Collier, a former Coast Guard pilot and a crop duster. Gray is instantly drawn to the pilot and his teenage niece, Jade—and Kristina's not far behind. She and Canyon are soon bonding over parenting their charges and their spark becomes undeniable. Could it be that the spirited pilot is just what Kristina needs to teach her heart to soar again? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Gift of the Magpie by Zoe M. McCarthy -- Amanda Larrowe’s lack of trust sabotages her relationships. The English teacher and award-winning author of middle-grade adventure books for boys has shut off communication with friends and family to meet her January 2 book deadline. Now, in the deepest snow accumulation Richmond, Virginia, has experienced in years, Camden Lancaster moves in across the street. After ten years, Amanda’s heart still smarts from the humiliating aftermath of their perfect high-school Valentine’s Day date. Camden may have transformed into a handsome, amiable man, but his likeability doesn’t instill trust in Amanda’s heart. When Cam doesn’t recognize her on their first two encounters, she thinks it’s safe to be his fair-weather neighbor. Boy is she wrong. (Contemporary Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

A Mother for Leah by Rachel L. Miller --It’s been ten years since Leah Fisher’s mother died in a buggy accident. But when Leah’s father shows interest in Naomi Yoder, Leah isn’t ready for a new mother. Will Leah be able to let go of her own ideas and realize that God truly does know best for her or will she allow love to slip through her fingers, destroying Samuel Fisher and Naomi Yoder's happiness at the same time? (Contemporary from S & G Publishing)

General Contemporary:
Freedom’s Ring by Heidi Chiavaroli -- An antique ring reunites a Boston Marathon bombing survivor with the man who saved her. Together they unearth the two-hundred-year- old history of a woman who suffered tremendous loss in the Boston Massacre, a woman torn between the love of two men – one a patriot, one a Redcoat. (General Contemporary from Tyndale House)

Fresh Faith by Elise Phillips -- Joy Abbott had been trying to start her life over for years -- and failing. Then a letter summoned her to Texas and everything changed. (General Contemporary from Desert Breeze Publishing)


Enchanted Isle by Melanie Dobson -- In the spring of 1958, Jenny Winter embarks on a two-month adventure to a quaint village in England’s magical Lake District. With a new camera and an eye for capturing the beauty others miss, she can’t wait to explore the heathery fells and mystical waters. Adrian Kemp, a handsome and enigmatic local, makes the sightseeing even more beguiling. When Adrian shows Jenny his late father’s abandoned dream, a deserted island amusement park, she glimpses a kindred spirit in this reckless, haunted young man. Yet as she opens her heart to Adrian, the two stumble into a mystery leading back a generation to an unforgettable romance and an unsolved murder. As long-held secrets come to light, it’s left to Jenny and Adrian to put the past to rest and restore a lost dream. (Historical from Waterfall Press)

Titus: The Aristocrat by Katheryn Maddox Haddad -- Titus intends to become a famous lawyer in the Roman Empire. Instead, he is sent by Paul to arbitrate between arch enemies in wild Corinth, wilder Crete, and wildest Dalmatia. In each place he suffers. But, long before that, he suffers from guilt over the death of his mother when he was eleven years old. How does Titus survive it all? (Historical from Northern Lights Publishing House)

Historical Romance:

To Wager Her Heart by Tamera Alexander -- With fates bound by a shared tragedy, a reformed gambler from the Colorado Territory and a Southern Belle bent on breaking free from society's expectations must work together to achieve their dreams - provided the truth doesn't tear them apart first. (Historical Romance from Zondervan)

The Second Chance Brides Collection by Lauralee Bliss, Angela Breidenbach, Ramona K. Cecil, Pamela Griffin, Grace Hitchcock, Pam Hillman, Laura V. Hilton, Tiffany Amber Stockton, and Liz Tolsma -- Meet nine women who each believe their chance for lifelong love has passed them by. From the girls who lost their beaus to war, to the wallflowers overshadowed by others, and the widows deeply hurt by their loss, the desire to love and be loved spans American history from 1777 to 1944. Experience the sweet pull of romance on each life and the blossom of faith that leads them to brighter futures. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Promise of Breeze Hill by Pam Hillman -- Anxious for his brothers to join him on the rugged frontier along the Mississippi River, Connor O’Shea has no choice but to indenture himself as a carpenter in exchange for their passage from Ireland. But when he’s sold to Isabella Bartholomew of Breeze Hill Plantation, Connor fears he’ll repeat past mistakes and vows not to be tempted by the lovely lady. The responsibilities of running Breeze Hill have fallen on Isabella’s shoulders after her brother was found dead in the swamps along the Natchez Trace and a suspicious fire devastated their crops, almost destroyed their home, and left her father seriously injured. Even with Connor’s help, Isabella fears she’ll lose her family’s plantation. Despite her growing feelings for the handsome Irish carpenter, she seriously considers accepting her wealthy and influential neighbor’s proposal of marriage. Soon, though, Connor realizes someone is out to eliminate the Bartholomew family. Can he set aside his own feelings to keep Isabella safe? (Historical Romance from Tyndale House)

Romantic Suspense:

Chasing Secrets by Lynette Eason -- When a photo leads investigators in West Ireland to open a twenty-five-year-old cold case, Elite Guardians bodyguard Haley Callaghan's life is suddenly in danger. Haley knows how to take care of herself; after all, she's made a career out of taking care of others. But after she has an uncomfortably close call, Detective Steven Rothwell takes it upon himself to stay with her--and the young client she has taken under her wing. A protector at heart, he's not about to let Haley fight this battle alone. In a sweeping plot that takes them into long-buried memories--and the depths of the heart--Haley and Steven will have to solve the mystery of Haley's past while dodging bullets, bombs, and bad guys who just won't quit. (Romantic Suspense from Revell [Baker])

Plain Retribution by Dana R. Lynn -- Ten years ago while on rumspringa, Rebecca Miller and her friends were kidnapped and held captive…and now, living in the English world, she's nearly abducted again. One by one her friends who once helped send their abductor to jail are targeted, and she is next…unless police officer Miles Olsen can stop a killer. Deaf since birth, the only person on the force that Rebecca can communicate with is Miles, and he needs this case to redeem himself of past mistakes. When the relentless killer tracks them deep into the heart of Amish country, protecting Rebecca must be Miles's sole focus. Because a mistake this time will cost something worth more to him than his job—the woman he's falling for. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Cold Blooded by Anne Patrick -- Detective Gwen Jamison has the highest closure rate in her division, but a string of armed robberies is about to take over her life. Not only will her job be on the line, but the troubling case also wreaks havoc on her personal life. Lieutenant Ian McKean knew he would have his hands full when he took over leadership of the detectives unit. He wasn't prepared for the headstrong Detective Jamison, though, who quickly becomes a thorn in his side. If they can stop butting heads long enough they might realize they are more alike than either imagined. (Romantic Suspense from Anne Patrick)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

4 Ways to Aid Spiritual Maturity

Spiritual growth is a sticky issue. On one hand, failing to grow leads to a multitude of problems. On the other, we lack the ability to grow; growth is a gift which ultimately flows from the hand of God.

Yet while we cannot force ourselves to mature, we can aid the process, like a farmer who plants and waters and fertilizes. After all, Paul still had to plant and Apollos still watered, even though the growth came from God (1 Corinthians 3:6). So here are four ways to encourage healthy spiritual growth:
Eat right. Without proper nutrition, our physical bodies won’t grow the way they’re supposed to. The spiritual requires the same. This is why biblical literacy is so important. Just as you need food to create energy, you need knowledge to apply it.
However, eating right is about more than Bible study. It refers to anything you “consume” —activities, conversations, and especially media. So are you feeding your heart and mind that which promotes general healthiness? This doesn’t mean everything you consume must be Christian. Eating a diet of fast-food Christianity consistently can be quite damaging. Rather, does what you consume, Christian or not, promote overall spiritual health? Does it make you think or challenge you to deepen your beliefs? Does it provide concrete images of biblical principles in action?
Exercise. Diet and exercise—they seem to be an inseparable pair, not matter what realm you are dealing with: Faith is supposed to produce works just like food produces energy to act (James 2:22, 26). We are to act upon what we hear.
So how are you exercising your faith? You study the Word of God—what evidence does your life produce of this? How are you applying what you learn? What spiritual disciplines are you practicing? Which choices are moving you toward God—and which are drawing you away?
Expand your horizons. The world of a baby is very small, comprised of a few people, minimal knowledge, and limited ability. But the older he or she grows, the more the world expands: They learn to make friends, meet strangers, and become aware of a world of people they may never meet. Concrete concepts are mastered; abstracts are introduced. Facts are learned; new ideas are considered. They learn to crawl…to run…to ride a bike…to drive a car.
Again what is true physically is true spiritually: Our awareness of the world around us and our ability to interact with it should also be expanding. How? The same way we do physically. Imitate those more mature than you and experiment with ways to serve. Be willing to try a wide variety of activities. Read widely. Think deeply. Ask plenty of questions. Listen to others. Give yourself permission to live fully—the good and the bad. With each experience, your perception of the world will grow a little broader.
Keep your expectations reasonable. You can’t expect a child to mature into an adult overnight. An infant won’t act like a teenager. Likewise you must start with where you are now spiritually. Not where you would like to be. Not where you should be. But where you are now.
So step back and examine your life. Which age do you most closely resemble? Are you a helpless infant, unable to do anything for yourself? Or a child full of curiosity and absorbing everything around her? Maybe you’re a teenager, developing personal abilities. Wherever you find yourself, focus on growing toward the next stage of maturity.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Spiritual Maturity: Separating Good & Evil

Biblical literacy is the first step to discernment. But knowledge alone is insufficient. This truth was boldly reinforced by recent Barna survey for the American Culture & Faith Institute: Of those who claim to read the Bible every day, only 45% were integrated disciples (those who display both strong biblical beliefs and strong biblical behavior). In short, the daily reading of the Bible fails to affect most people in their beliefs and their behavior. (See surveys here and here.) So while you may be able quote every verse on money, what good is it if you are still greedy? Or as James points out, we are supposed to be doers of the Word, not merely hearers (James 1:22).

So the ability to recognize good and evil is insufficient. Alone, such knowledge puffs us up with pride. We deceive ourselves into thinking more of ourselves than we ought. Rather, we must do something with that knowledge. We must learn to separate the good from the evil. This, in turn, allows us to absorb the good into our lives while tossing out all that which is bad.

However, just as you can’t expect to fix a gourmet meal your first week of studying Scripture, neither should you presume that you will start your spiritual growth as a fully mature adult. Rather, each of us begins as spiritual infants. Helpless and ignorant, we lack all discernment, wisdom, knowledge, and ability. We are utterly dependent on others to even survive.

In of itself, this is not bad. Quite the opposite! God created us to begin as infants, both physically and spiritually. As a result, a healthy and growing baby can be a source of great delight. The trouble arises when the baby fails to grow properly, remaining a helpless infant year after year after year.

So being a spiritual infant is not the problem. Staying one is. Therefore, it is imperative that we grow up. After all, there’s nothing amusing about working with a thirty-year-old baby.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

7 Ways to Grow Biblical Literacy

Biblical literacy is the first step to developing discernment. Since discernment separates good from evil, we must understand what qualifies as good and what qualifies as evil. We gain this understanding through biblical literacy.

So how do we gain biblical literacy?

First, by taking responsibility. It is easy to think a church is responsible for your spiritual growth, and it is even easier to blame the church when you fail to grow. But you cannot rely on others. You must take personal responsibility for your study of the Scriptures.

Second, by making a commitment. Gaining biblical literacy is hard. It takes work. It takes time. It takes patience. So unless you decide that you want to grow and that you want to start growing now, you will never get around to developing your biblical literacy. You will always have something else to do, something more “urgent” to attend to, something more fun or pleasing to distract you from learning of biblical literacy.
Third, by reading the Bible yourself. Sermons, devotionals, and the studies are all helpful tools. They teach you ways to feed yourself and fix spiritual food you aren’t yet ready to prepare yourself. Yet in each of these cases, you are ultimately relying on someone else to feed you. If you are relying on these outside sources for all or even most of your spiritual nourishment, then someone else is telling you what the Bible says and defining what is good. This isn’t biblical literacy nor does it lead to discernment. You must learn to feed yourself from Scriptures. Otherwise you are no different than an infant who depends on others for his care, or a person who eats out all the time, which can take a high toll on both health and finances.
Fourth, by reading the Bible daily. I don’t care whether you read only a few verses or several chapters. I don’t care if your plan is structured or flexible. The amount and method aren’t as important as the consistency. After all, you eat physical food every day. Shouldn’t you do the same spiritually?

Fifth, by taking notes. Thanks to the hard work and courage of many men and women, we can enjoy the Bible in our native tongue. Our familiarity with the language, however, makes it easy to skim the biblical text; we “read” the words without really seeing them. So when you read, keep a notebook or computer handy. Jot down notes. Ask questions. Summarize. Note observations. This will help you stay engaged with what you are reading.
Sixth, by chewing on it. You probably eat more than once a day. Your body takes several hours to process the food eaten. What is true physically is true spiritually. A fifteen-minute snack once a day doesn’t provide much nourishment. So find a way to “eat” throughout your day. This can be done in many ways. Break up your study into several mini-sessions. Or try leaving your Bible open in a common area to be referenced several times during the day. Memorization is another popular technique. If you are on the move a lot, carry an index card with key thoughts as a reminder. The key is to find a method that works for you and then do it.
Seventh, by remembering you don’t have to start with a gourmet meal! Often we fail to even try because o f discouragement. We look at a pastor or favorite Bible teacher and say, “I can’t get what they get out of the Bible.” Of course you can’t—at least not when you’re first starting out! These men and women have invested years of hours to arrive at where they are today, just like a master chef has spent years training himself to cook. You can’t expect yourself to be able to fix a gourmet meal from the Bible even after a few months of study. Rather, grant yourself the permission to start with a spiritual PB&J. It might not be fancy, but it’s still nourishing!