Review for The Sin of Forgiveness by Edward F. Mrkvicka, Jr.

The Sin of Forgiveness by Edward F. Mrkvicka, Jr.

“Is forgiveness a sin? It depends on what kind of forgiveness you’re talking about. Worldly forgiveness is a sin as described repeatedly in the Bible. Conversely, righteous forgiveness is a holy thing that changes lives and eternities.”

“We are to forgive as God instructs.”

“Luke 17:3 say, ‘Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.’ ”

Faith_honors_God

Most of us know that if we build a house on an unstable, flawed foundation, regardless how beautiful the house may be, it is in danger of breaking apart and collapsing. Its destruction could have been avoided if attention had been given to the most important part of the building: the foundation. A foundation may not be attractive in appearance, so it often gets ignored, hidden, and forgotten. In this reviewer’s opinion, the same appears to be true of Christianity. In our efforts to “beautify” the church and make it appealing to as many as possible, people who have good intentions, those who love God, have neglected the foundation of our beliefs–the truth about God as given to us in the Bible.

I agree with the author when he asserts that there is a difference between the Biblical concept of forgiveness and the secular concept of forgiveness. In the introduction of his book, he outlines these differences.

A. Divine forgiveness
1. We are to know why we are to forgive an offender.
2. God desires reconciliation.
3. God desires that we sacrifice for one another.
4. Forgiveness is a serious issue.
5. The process of forgiveness should be done according to Jesus’ teaching
and example.
6. Forgiveness is an act of painful payment, restitution and
repentance.
7. The desire is for the sinner to be reborn and reconciled.
8. The victim seeks what was lost through the sin committed.
9. Forgiveness is a result of repentance.
10. We cannot forgive on our own. We need God’s assistance.
11. Forgiveness is a healing process for both parties; a result of
seeking righteousness.
12. The wronged seeks assurance that the sin will not be repeated
against them.
13. Follow the instructions of Luke 17:3 for the Godly pattern.
14. Forgiveness is offered only when the sinner repents.

B. Secular forgiveness

1. Uses half truths for blanket forgiveness. See Luke 6: 36-37
2. Forgive everything all the time (mindless).
3. We forgive for our own mental well being.
4. Unconditional forgiveness is easy.
5. The wronged is denied rightful restitution.
6. It is implied that forgiveness is the responsibility of the wronged.
7. This kind of forgiveness seems spiritual no matter the method
used as long as we forgive.
8. We are not seeking God’s counsel.
9. This kind of forgiveness ignores Jesus’ example on the cross.
10. This kind of forgiveness gives the perpetrator license to continue
offending and doing wrong.
11. This kind of forgiveness harms both parties.
12. This kind of forgiveness makes the victim a partaker of the
offender’s sin (giving permission to continue to sin).
13. This kind of forgiveness responds to “I’m sorry.” But saying that is not
restitution, repentance, or turning away from the wrong behavior.
14. Giving forgiveness when it is not warranted does not heal anyone.

It appears that the Christian church today is moving away from Biblical forgiveness and leaning toward the secular definition of forgiveness. Biblical forgiveness is often dismissed as being ungracious, judgmental, severe, and unloving. “Repentance is dismissed by society as irrelevant…” When is the last time you have heard repentance taught in the church? Yet when you read Biblical events, how often did disobedience and/or unrepentance of a person cause difficulty for a whole family, a community or even an entire nation?

One of the most basic truths about God is that He is not like us. The Bible uses word pictures to drive this important concept home: He is the Potter, we are the clay (Isaiah 64:8, Isaiah 29:16). Most of us understand how little a person has in common with a hunk of clay. A person is animate; the clay is inanimate. A person has life and breathes; clay has no life and it doesn’t breathe. So are the differences between God and mankind. Isaiah 55:8 says God’s ways are not our ways. How many of us can think an entire universe into existence? God can choose to forget. We cannot seem to forget things we want to forget and often forget what we should remember. God exists outside of time and we humans can’t even imagine a life without a past, present and future. God exists in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We can’t even begin to imagine that kind of existence.

His ways are not our ways

His ways are not our ways

With such monumental differences between us and God, how are we to understand Him? From the moment of man’s creation God had a plan; He gave us choices. With the choices came consequences. Through events from the beginning and throughout the next few thousand years of history God demonstrated His nature to us. Ones who loved God, such as Moses, wrote down these events in what became known as the Scriptures (The Writings). Today we call the entire collection the Bible (The Book). From the Bible we learn the best way to live life is to do things God’s way. Obedience to Him, even when His way sometimes doesn’t make sense to us, is walking in faith.

The Bible is filled with examples of real people who walked by faith and received God’s blessings when they did, and of those who went their own ways, walked in disobedience and experienced the consequences that followed. In God’s perfect timing, He further demonstrated His character by manifesting Himself in the person of God the Son, by becoming a human being, the one we call Jesus of Nazareth. Throughout Jesus’ life, He showed us His perfect nature and set an example for us to follow. In His death and resurrection, He displayed His lordship over His creation and how much He loves us by paying the consequences of sin for us. Through Jesus, the Christ, He demonstrated to us that He is interested in reconciliation with us. In chapter three, you’ll read a medical account of the crucifixion that emphasizes this desire. In fact, when you read the Bible all the way through, it becomes clear how much more effort God has put into clearing the way for us to have a relationship with Him than people have ever put into reaching out to Him. The efforts He put out is so lopsided on our behalf we can call the Bible God’s love letter to us.

When we read Bible verses about forgiveness we need to read in the context. The author spends all of Chapter one in his book about context, comparing it to a tapestry. When we see all the threads woven together, the entire picture becomes clearer to us. God doesn’t hide the truth from us. But sometimes when we are lazy or in a hurry, we read a detail out of context and give it our own interpretation to it and miss what God wants us to know.

In chapter two, the author explains that instead of society conforming to the church as it represents God’s Good News to the world, the church is gradually conforming to society. This is why it’s important to know the “why” of forgiveness as God has demonstrated to us in the Bible and throughout history. If we don’t know our Bible and don’t know history, then it is easy for us to follow society. Likewise, “if we understand history, it becomes that much harder for us to be deceived…One reason you want to immerse yourself in the Word is that it makes it almost impossible for Satan to tell us lies that lead us astray.”

Chapter three explains why “I’m sorry” is not good enough if it is not accompanied by action that demonstrates the person is going in a new direction where the offending sin is no longer being repeated over and over. This chapter made me stop and ponder how many times I may have encouraged my children to say they were sorry without ensuring the direction they were heading changed, without repentance. Since I understood the concept of repentance even decades ago, I hope not very often.

Chapter four explains why unconditional forgiveness is harmful to both the one sinned against and the one continuing the sin. He gives a powerful example from his days as a counselor. Chapter five gives us the if, the when, and the how to forgive. He also includes how repentance fits into the picture and why it’s part of the process. It is part of the responsibility God gives to us to help our brothers and sisters in Christ be restored. This is the beauty of being part of God’s family. Reconciliation and restoration is part of being a child of God and we get to be involved in the process. It’s our mission in life; what a blessing!

Chapter six summarizes the consequences if we continue to practice a secular form of forgiveness rather than the Biblical instructions God gives to us in His Word, while chapter seven is a question answer forum from some of the author’s readers. In this final section he fills in any gaps of basic Biblical truth that was apparent in the questions he was asked. It is my favorite chapter since the questions and answers reveal just how strongly the world’s mindset has strongly influenced believers today. Some of the questions are amusing, in a distressing sort of way, while others make a person think. I’m reminded how much we need to pray for each other as Christian brothers and sisters.

Wrap_arms_around_hurting

I believe this book is unique in its intent to point out the differences in our perception of what forgiveness is supposed to be and the way it is presently practiced in the western world. As was probably intended, the title caught my eye and I happily volunteered to review it. I’m glad I did. The author’s Bible teaching is rock solid, something that is desperately needed in the present age. My only suggestion is not to include too many old cliches such as “The world is going to hell in a handbasket” in any future books.

A complimentary review copy was provided to me by Cross Focused Reviews (A Service of Cross Focused Media, LLC). I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Review: A Season for Tending [Amish Vines and Orchards Book 1] by Cindy Woodsmall

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Review for A Season for Tending by Cindy Woodsmall

Sometimes we look at other people groups, and because their lives are somewhat different from ours, we think they are idyllic. But as we see in this story, it certainly isn’t true. There is much more we have in common than is dissimilar. As a group, the Amish suffered when the economy downturn hit everyone else. They experience relationship difficulties as we do. They feel the same uncertainties about their future lives. They suffer insecurities, anger, jealousy, envy, ignorance, doubts, and crisis of faith as anyone else would. Many of these struggles are played out in this book.

Rhoda, our main character, is faced with several challenges. Two years ago, her sister died in a freak incident and Rhoda feels guilty for that; she blames herself. She had felt a warning premonition and thinks she failed her sister and family. Now, as the story unfolds, she is being targeted by an Amish man who feeds peoples’ superstitions with rumors about her. Her next door neighbor won’t speak to her, and even her family are wary around her. In addition, her mind is sharp and she often gets into trouble when she speaks before she thinks or acts before considering the consequences.

Rhoda has honed her knowledge of plants and herbs over the years. She knows how to use them to help people when they feel ill. She grows fruits and vegetables that she sells under the name of Rhode Side Stands. It has become a small business prosperous enough to take on a partner, Landon, an Englisch man. His job is mostly in marketing, keeping up a website for Rhoda, getting her products into stores, and being overall assistant. They’ve been business partners for four years and no one knows Rhoda like he does. Above all, he is a good friend.

In a nearby Amish community lives Samuel, Eli, and Jacob King, owners of the famous King Orchards, known for their organic pest control methods. Just a few years ago, Samuel’s grandfather turned the management and ownership over to him, something Sam was groomed for as he grew up. But the past couple years have been hard for the company and they need a good year to keep their business afloat. Suddenly they discover a pest problem and it’s too late in the year to treat it. How will they survive this season? Samuel comes up with a unique solution, and he appeals to Rhoda for help.

At first, Rhoda is reluctant, but it seems that God has other ideas. Through a series of unhappy events Rhoda finds herself without a garden and crops. She joins the brothers and works on her canning business using their crops. Living in a different community gives her a reprieve from the censure of biased neighbors and she finds some peace. Samuel, the elder brother, has a girlfriend, but they experience some difficulties in their relationship during the course of this story. He discovers he is attracted to Rhoda, but he knows his brother Jacob is falling in love with her. Things become more complicated when disaster strikes and the orchard is damaged nearly beyond recovery.

My favorite part of the story is the business savvy conversations Rhoda has with Samuel and the playful bantering between her and Jacob. She has to overcome the traditional roles of female and male Amish folk to become his business partner, but manages to do this effectively.

The author has created in her characters genuine believable conflict, personalities, quirks and warmth. The different customs of the Amish community are a backdrop and context to the people we grow to care for. I felt pained when the young ones made mistakes, and reassured when life lessons were learned. There’s anguish when relationships turned sour; anxiety when things went wrong; a warm glow when circumstances worked out better than expected.

Because this book is part of a series, there is little resolution in most of the conflicts highlighted in the subplots except the main plot: Rhoda finds resolution for her own personal issues. The reader can easily tell that more will follow in subsequent books. I’m really looking forward to reading them.

A complimentary review copy was provided to me by Blogging for Books (A WaterbrookMultnomah.com division). I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Review for Nate Saint: Operation Auca by Nancy Drummond

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Nate Saint: Operation Auca by Nancy Drummond

This book is a biography written for older children and youth, although it is a great read for any age group. There are basically two parts to the story told in this book; the first is about Nate, his interest in airplanes, how he came to know the Lord, and his determination to serve God as a missionary. The second half of the book is a story within a story. After serving his country as a young airman in World War II, Nate combined his love for aviation and his love for the Lord by joining the Christian Airmen’s Missionary Fellowship (CAMF). Missionary aviation work was a new field with lots of potential to do God’s work. Aviation ministry began as a support network for the missionaries located in rural areas far away from the usual forms of transportation.

Nate’s first experience with CAMF was an assignment in Southern Mexico where a pilot had crashed the only plane working in the mission field in the area. The work had essentially ground to a stop until the plane could be repaired. In Tuxtla Gutierrez he found the wings in bushel baskets in a small hanger at the local airport. The rest of the plane was 80 miles away off an airstrip deep in the jungle where it crashed. Nate had a lot of problems to solve. He hired a cabinet maker to help him as they reconstructed the wings. Neither spoke the other’s language, but they learned from each other while working. During the repair time, Nate started to get sick. His diet was not enough to fight off the unfamiliar diseases and insect bites. He began to pray for God to send him some help. That prayer was answered when another missionary heard of Nate’s problems and came to his assistance. He could cook healthy meals and help with keeping Nate’s home clean. Soon Nate was well and on his way to finishing the wings.

When it was time, the missionary helped find a pilot with a plane to fly the repaired wings and pieces to the site where the rest of the plane was located. When they arrived, Nate found the plane crumpled and he knew he had much more work to do. Fortunately the engine was fine and started up immediately. When the task was finished, Nate contacted CAMF, who sent out a pilot to test the plane. It was a learning experience for the aviation mission as well as for Nate. They realized their pilots needed more knowledge of airplane mechanics and jungle survival in case they were stranded in the bush, and Nate was more convinced this was the work God had for him. He returned to the states where he enrolled in college to better become prepared to be a missionary.

Nate Saint

Nate Saint (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Eventually Nate and his new wife, Marj, were sent to Ecuador near the Curaray River where there were other missionaries in the jungle. There was an excellent airstrip at the outpost that was nestled in the Andes mountains. Nate’s first assignment was to fly the plane he would use to the outpost from the US. From then on, he flew supplies and equipment to missionaries, medicine for sick villagers, transported the badly injured and the very ill out of the jungle to modern medical care. He and a crew of other missionaries built a large building to become their home, guest quarters, and central office.

English: Rio Curaray

English: Rio Curaray (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nate and Marj worked with missionary couples Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, Ed and Marilou McCully, Pete and Olive Fleming, Roger and Barbara Youderian (Johnny Keenan was a fellow pilot and his wife, Ruth), closely over the next several years. They heard of a tribe called the Aucas (They called themselves the Waodani.) who were violent and feared by other Quichuan tribes. Trying cautiously to make contact, Nate, Jim, Ed, Pete and Roger came up with and implemented a plan. Contact efforts went well at first, but all of it turned sour quickly and the Aucas killed the men after trying a face to face meeting. The men
had agreed ahead of time not to resist or defend themselves if they were attacked. They were willing to die because they knew Jesus as Savior, but the tribesmen did not.

Map of the area where Operation Auca took plac...

Map of the area where Operation Auca took place, in Ecuador. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The reconstructed frame of Nate Saint's plane ...

The reconstructed frame of Nate Saint’s plane used in Operation Auca and other missionary work in Ecuador in the 1950s. Currently on display at the headquarters of the Mission Aviation Fellowship. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But that isn’t the end of the story. The surviving five wives grieved their loss, but made a decision to continue their husbands’ work in Ecuador. God gave them “the peace that passes all understanding”, and He laid on Nate’s sister’s heart the desire to pray for the Auca for a breakthrough. The first one was Dayuma, an Aucan woman who had earlier fled her tribe. Dayuma taught Rachel their customs and language, and in return, Rachel taught Dayuma about the Lord Jesus and salvation. Dayuma became the first Aucan Christian. Elisabeth Elliot was talking with Marj Saint a year later when they heard singing in the jungle. It was Dayuma, her friends and more people from the tribe. They had come to ask Rachel, Elisabeth and her daughter to live in the village with them. Rachel Saint spent the rest of her life with them. Elisabeth lived there for awhile, then moved back to the United States where she wrote about her experiences and spoke to numerous people.

When the death of the five missionaries made it to the news, people all over the globe were shocked. Yet there was more to the message and responses than outrage. I remember the time when I was about 11 or 12 (the late ’60’s) and hearing the story from my Sunday School teacher. I also probably read Elisabeth Elliot’s book, Through Gates of Splendor which she wrote one year after her husband Jim was killed. People all over the world were spurred on to mission work, and many people came to know Christ. The story did not lose any momentum over time. When I entered my teenage years (early ’70’s), Elisabeth Elliot was going on speaking tours to tell her husband’s story–ultimately God’s story. It was a memorable experience for me since it helped influence the direction I took in life.

When I was in college (mid ’70’s), her books were still top sellers, and we talked about this experience in our Bible study groups. That’s because there is an underlying message that is counter-cultural and usually takes Christians by surprise. Nate Saint and his four other
missionary friends died as young adults, young parents. It brought out the question, are we willing to die for Christ if necessary? Are we here just to “make a difference” (a common platitude even today) in the world, or to be obedient to God completely? Do we understand that we may play a very small part in God’s overall plan? Can we accept that and live it? The ’80’s were the years when I became acquainted with the concept and phrase ‘dying to self’. Nothing illustrated that concept better than the events in Ecuador with the Auca.

Nate’s son and daughter, Steve and Kathy visited their Aunt Rachel in Ecuador often before she died in 1994 of cancer. Both Kathy and Steve were baptised in the Curaray River by two of the men in the tribe who had become Christians. Both the men had been in the party responsible for their father’s death. It was a forgiving experience for everyone and a testimony to the power of God through forgiveness. Steve went on to live with the Auca for a year, then write a book, Beyond the Gates of Splendor, and create a documentary film based on the book.

The book, Through Gates of Splendor, has long ago been made into a movie and is available on DVD. Then in 2005 a new movie was created, again about the story of the five missionary men, but this time from the point of view of the Auca. It is called The End of the Spear. It emphasizes the transformation of the entire population of the tribe. They were literally freed from their killing sprees, inter-tribal wars and violent lives.

Cover of "Through Gates of Splendor"

Cover of Through Gates of Splendor

I am excited that this book about Nate Saint is out on ebook and print. The life changing principles demonstrated in the missionaries’ lives as portrayed in this book is as powerful and life altering as the story of Corrie Ten Boom in the Hiding Place. It is a principle that is as relevant today as it was in 1955. I highly recommend reading this to your younger children as long as you prepare them for the scene where Nate and his friends give up their lives. Otherwise, older children, youth and adults will all be challenged to examine their hearts and determine whether they are willing to follow Christ completely.

A complimentary review copy was provided to me by Cross Focused Reviews (A Service of Cross Focused Media, LLC). I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Radical Dating by Diane Montgomery, Gabrielle Pickle and Sarah Bubar

His ways are not our ways

His ways are not our ways

Meet the girls who wrote this book: Diane, Gabrielle and Sarah. “Boys. Dating. Relationships. Singleness. We’ve been there. We’ve felt the butterflies. We’ve suffered through the awkward first dates. We’ve wondered if he would ever call. We’ve made the mistakes. We’ve struggled to recover from heartbreak. We’ve battled loneliness. We’ve questioned the point of dating and relationships. And chances are, we’ve asked the same questions…What if there is more to my love life than a never-ending pursuit of romantic bliss? What if all this boy-girl stuff has a bigger purpose than just my fleeting happiness? What if God has a bigger plan for my dates, relationships and singleness? What if all this romantic hoop-la was not just about a boy, or several boys, but about a Savior? What if singleness, relationships and even marriage were ways for me to proclaim Christ to the world?”

How we think about dating is the “radical” element that is shared in this book. “Our lives are a witness to the world and a sacrifice of worship to God.” It matters why we date, who we date, and how we date. It matters if we date bad boys, lost boys, or jerks. So girls, are you ready to think and be radical? And guys, if you want to read this, there is no male bashing in here. If you want to encourage your sisters in Christ, you’re welcome to read this too.

Besides being a former teacher, tutor and homeschool mom, I’m also a concerned mom of two young adults who are in the appropriate age range for this book. Like any typical parent, I want the best for them. I want to see them do things God’s way, because over the years we’ve come to realize how His ways are always better than ours. I desire for them a best friend, a lifetime soul mate and partner in serving Christ. I want them to be happy, content, filled with joy and blessed. I want them to go out and be a blessing as well. So many tidbits similar to my own experiences that I have passed down to them over the years are found in this book…all in one place. I believe this book could help them in such a spiritual walk.

I was excited when I started reading this book, because I can see what a wonderful resource this is going to be for many. I recommend this book to young women in the dating arena because this will help change the way the purpose of dating and relationships is perceived. I also recommend this book for those counseling the young women who are
struggling with relationship and dating issues.

There are five short sections in the book:
a) Why you date — True Love
b) How you date — Relationships
c) Who you date — Boys
d) What you do on the date — Purity
e) When the dates end — Singleness

There are about 20 devotional chapters, each with questions to help you think it through. Each are short enough to read in one session. The topics they treat, however, are pithy and life relevant–topics such as what God has to do with dating, how not to become “that woman”, dealing with singleness, and the pressures we feel to find “the one”. Accompanying Bible verses help the reader understand the importance of Biblical principles and how they apply to relationships. I believe each of these chapters would serve as a thought provoking devotional for an individual, but could be flexible enough to use with a small group, using the questions to guide the discussions. The final pages of the book have recommended reading and a bibliography.

My favorite section was the profile of a jerk as found in the Psalms and Proverbs. I think most of us can think of examples of jerks in the world of dating and understand why we need to stay away from them. Yet many women still find their hearts entangled with one.

Bible study leaders will find this book invaluable for both new Christians individually or in Bible Study groups as well as the older Christian young people since the principles covered in this book are timeless. A section in the latter half even applies to young married women. We can’t be reminded often enough that God’s ways aren’t always our ways. When our hearts are centered on Christ, all other things will eventually fall into place.

A complimentary review copy was provided to me by Cross Focused Reviews (A Service of Cross Focused Media, LLC). I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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