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The Way Home by Tessa Afshar

The Way Home Bible study: God’s invitation to New Beginnings by Tessa Afshar

Tessa Afshar’s new study, The Way Home is based on the book of Ruth. This six week study brings the book to life in a revelatory way, weaving the cultural backdrop and highlighting the spiritual progress of each character. You will come to adore and understand the familiar actors as you navigate their struggles and victories.

Naomi and Ruth experience a profound sense of hopelessness that comes from deep loss. However,  the state of Israel at the time of the book of judges, which immediately precedes the book of Ruth, was one of utter despair and political upheaval.

The book of Ruth is about new beginnings. Despite Ruth and Naomi’s ethnic differences between Gentile and Jew, the stark evidence of God’s love and hand is tenderly visible. The heart of God for reconciliation between Jew and Gentile is highly apparent.

The study starts with the backdrop of famine, emphasizing the lack and emptiness present in Ruth, recently widowed and Naomi’s lives.

Ruth chose to have the courage to move into an unfamiliar land and allowed courage to be the gateway for new beginnings for her and Naomi.#thewayhome #tessaafshar #newbeginnings Click To Tweet

Ruth’s decision to operate out of hope and love demonstrates the power of personal choice. Her loving actions bring the same blessing of a new beginning to Naomi, her mother-in-law, and to Boaz, whom she marries after moving to Jerusalem with Naomi.

Tragedy does not exempt us from making responsible decisions. And decisions can lead to a glorious destiny orchestrated by divine love if we like Ruth, place our trust in God's hands. Click To Tweet

In the words of Tessa, “It is possible to persevere even when pain robs us of breath.”

God meets us where we are, in our lack, in our loneliness and wrestling emotions.

God led Ruth to the exact spot where she would meet Boaz, whose name means “pillar of strength.”

Just as God offers Ruth a new beginning, He provides the same for us each day with fresh choices; choices that have the potential to lead us into the divine destiny uniquely designed for us.

There is extraordinary potential in the ordinary moments of life woven together by a loving God.

The boldness of Ruth, coupled with the loving nature of Boaz, result in a grace-filled covenant.

Tessa Afshar's new study skillfully reflects how shame is turned into grace and invites you to experience this grace by creating a new beginning in your life today. Click To Tweet

My favorite part of this study, as with all of Tessa’s writing, is the depth of her historical research.  There is so much wisdom to glean from putting the familiar Bible stories in their historical context, which is something that enriches all her texts.

I encourage you also to purchase the video series along with the study as I found them indispensable as I navigate and continue to study this inspiring study.

May you have your threshing floor today and find abundance where they has been lack in your life by following the Father’s voice into your land of new beginnings.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the way home bible study as a member of the launch team per Moody publishers. I did not receive any compensation for my review.

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I can’t breathe-A tribute to George Floyd

Breathe easy.

As I drove through a small town in Texas, I couldn’t help but notice the words on my left-hand side glancing back at me, inviting me to breathe freely in this quaint town.

Breathe easy.

The irony behind these words stood out strongly.

This week, the words flooding the news outlets and the most common social media hashtag has been, “I can’t breathe.”

  As George Floyd pleaded for his god-given life, his pleas fell on deaf ears of his murderer until hatred ultimately extinguished the flame of George’s life. #justiceforgeorgefloyd Click To Tweet

Turning away our faces from the divisive hatred still prevalent in hearts today, words of unity can only go far to bandage the pain of any forms of supremacy and racial division, which still forms the foundation of the not so “united” states.

If love is the way to tear away the veils of hatred than George Floyd’s murder this past week by a Caucasian cop in Minnesota may have torn the veil of complacency covering the eyes of the American public of the darkness that still prevails over this land.

As voices scream for the injustice that has sent shock waves through the Christian community, the topic of racial intolerance has surfaced once again.

Will the passionate pleas turn into conviction for the lack of love in our hearts or will these words remain as a forgotten hastag to be replaced by a new one next week?

As Christians should mourn the loss an innocent man, let us remember to pray fervently for George’s grieving family. George leaves behind a legacy of hard work, kindness and a respected community leader.

As America wrestles with sleeping giants of racial and political divides among a global pandemic, the state of Minnesota grieves the loss of George Floyd’s life amidst the havoc of a city in ruins post rioting.

Broken hearts lay amidst the ruins of broken dreams of many as the riots have trampled upon the hard work of innocent bystanders. For revenge is a fire that doesn’t burn just one individual, it consumes and spreads to others quickly destroying all in its ravaging path.

What can you do to break down the walls of division in your community? What can you do to become more aware of other cultures and close the racial gap? Are you willing to examine any stereotypes you may need to release?

After all, Jesus calls his children to be peacemakers. The only way to weaken hatred is to strengthen love. #georgefloyd Click To Tweet

George Floyd died from suffocation because, in the end, hatred is suffocating. Love, on the other hand, gives breathing room and breath births life.

Perhaps, if we allow the wells of our hearts to deepen in love, our love will become strong enough to shatter strongholds such as hate that still pervade humanity today.

Love is the only force that can withstand the divisive voices knocking at our doors daily.

To donate to George Floyd’s GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/f/georgefloyd

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Stones of remembrance

Stones adorn the nook and crannies of this world, adding diversity to the existing beauty of flora and fauna.

If you take a walk or hike, you will see stones adorning the rugged worn-out paths aching to be seen and held. All too often, they are overlooked by passersby.

So often, familiarity can lead to a lack of appreciation for what is right in front of our eyes.

Some stones, such as gemstones sparkle and glisten with glorious reflections and are often highly valued for their exquisiteness.

Other stones look plain and may be useful for landscaping buildings and homes. Even these are visually appealing when used strategically in patterns.

Sometimes, stones such as those worn on rings or collected while on vacation hold sentimental value.

Regardless of the outward appearance of stones, plain, smooth, jagged, or full of brilliant luster, each one carries intrinsic value as God’s creation.

The year 2020 began like every year, promise ringing far and wide. There was no indication of the messy prolonged middle to come.

The Israelites also faced a prolonged plot twist in their story, remaining lost in the wilderness forty years longer than anticipated. With no GPS to guide them, their hope was obedience and the past reliance on God’s faithfulness in bringing deliverance.

In the book of Joshua, the Israelites placed “stones of remembrance” alongside the Jordan River. These stones were to serve as glaring reminders of God’s providential nature. Click To Tweet

You may not have natural stones emerge from this time in quarantine, but you may have many testimonies and encounters with God that will remain your stones of remembrance.

What areas in your life have you found God to be faithful during this pandemic? 

Perhaps, you have had strangers become friends or rekindled empty relationships. Maybe, loved ones have showered you with lighthearted banter to lift your spirits.

May you not only have these stones engraved on your heart but document them as well to serve as a living legacy of the assured confidence in the goodness of the Father. #stonesofremembrance Click To Tweet

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.- (Psalm 27:13, 14)

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Don’t over think it by Anne Bogel

Anne Bogel presents a compilation of strategies to equip readers who struggle with overthinking.

Overthinking has implications for productivity, mental health, and relationships. This book provides concrete steps towards freedom from cycles of overthinking to the joy that comes from making simpler decisions.

If you struggle with perfectionism, decision fatigue, or information overload than this book will challenge you to develop new thinking patterns in these areas. #dontoverthinkit  #annebogel . Click To Tweet

This book will spur you towards personal growth and help you harness the gift of making decisions from a posture of peace.

Fear is not the channel that helps build healthy choices; peace and love are the healthy avenues needed to make impactful decisions yielding lasting change.

In a simple conversational style, Anne narrates examples from her own life and provides practical implications that have the power to transform your life.  Pick up a copy of this book today to infuse your life with subtle prompts to steer you forward into progress in your projects.

With wisdom to make simpler decisions, there lies newfound freedom on the other side. . Click To Tweet
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Quarantine Diaries

The world has never seemed as collectively still as it does right now.

The world holds many stories of market crashes, terrorism, and outbreaks. Each period is fashioned with its language, brimming with emotions and human experience.

Sometimes, being still can help one listen more intently.

Information is not the only goal in listening but rather, wisdom.

Stories carry wisdom, wisdom that many others need to flourish, gained from an alternative perspective.

During this global pandemic, the economy has fluctuated with job losses and economic upheavals, changing the landscape for all of  2020  and perhaps forever.

The rubric of our world has changed externally and internally, potentially forever. While many are struggling mentally and emotionally, we all have voices that carry energy.

Your voice can release grace and truth to hungry hearts and empty souls.

Paul, the apostle, was familiar with a voice he heard on the road to Damascus. The voice, accompanied by light, transformed his life forever. Although he had a life-changing experience, he still battled blindness and darkness for three days. -Acts 9:3-9. There are seasons where  darkness can follow illumination but it imperative to remember, the darkness will not last.

There is hope on the other side for brighter reality. One that needs our voice to usher in the brilliance of hope.

We, too, can use our voices to spark an illuminating revelation for others. Click To Tweet

Human connection is oxygen for our souls, yet many of us have fallen prey to overlooking a loved one’s needs or grappling with balancing work-life dynamics.

The longer we live through this period of significant social isolation, the more apparent is the adverse effects of a lack of healthy human connection.

Thankfully, technology can be put to use to keep us connected and emotionally balanced.

  Now is the chance to extend a kind word, call a neighbor, or seek out elderly relatives to lighten a load of loneliness with the power of uplifting words.  #quarantinediaries. Click To Tweet

This is an opportune time to remind people of their inherent value and cultivate the strength of a connection.

These moments and memories will ultimately make up your quarantine diary. It is a piece of your legacy that can potentially impact generations to come.

What do you hope to read when your future self looks back at your quarantine diary in years to come?  

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Bread of Angels review

Bread of Angels is an utterly delightful read. Psalm 78 is the foundation of the title and theme of this novel.

“Yet He commanded the skies above and opened the doors of heaven, and He rained down on them manna to eat and gave them the grain of heaven. Man ate of the bread of angels.” -Psalm 78:23-25

This verse highlights how not only humans but Angels as well, require trust in and provision from God.

The premise is that hunger is not satiated by food, but we, like the Angels, need to feed on trusting God for our daily physical provision and spiritual growth. #breadofangels #tessaafshar. Click To Tweet

Bread of Angels is based upon chapter 16 of the book of Acts and chronicles the story of Lydia, the seller of purple cloth. She was the first convert in Europe and a female business owner, a rare combination historically.

The novel brings Lydia to life Lydia giving her quirks and passions become quickly evident through this enchanting tale.

Lydia faces upheaval from her hometown as she faces the pain of betrayal, yet she finds a loyal friend despite the pain. She is left to flee Thyratira with her basic belongings and the arsenal of her Father’s secret dye.  Rebekah, a single Jewess, discovers a place in Lydia’s heart as they connect as kindred companions. Rebekah begins to plant the seeds of faith into Lydia’s cracked soul.

Lydia’s character is endearing and easy to relate to; she experiences a host of emotions as she attempts to navigate unexpected change. The seeds planted by Rebekah began to take root, and Lydia’s growing faith enables her to overcome the challenges that come her way through reliance on Christ.

I had a hard time putting this novel down. I felt like I was apart of the story traveling from Thyatira to the northern city of Phillipi along with Lydia.

Tessa Afshar narrates this tale of biblical fiction with literary prowess weaving Scripture into the vivid imagery of the narrative. #breadofangels #tessaafshar  @Tessaafshar @ShelleySinghAuD. Click To Tweet

I found myself savoring the flavor of her words, inhaling the content of engaging banter colored with well researched biblical gems.

I also truly enjoyed delving into Lydia’s time with Paul. Reading about Paul makes me want to read more about his accounts in the new testament scriptures and glean from the depth of his wisdom.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, I do feel like the ending was slightly abrupt, and I would have liked to hear more about the unexpected budding romance that Lydia found, narrated in greater detail.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“The way of Jesus worked in the opposite direction. It gave without asking for impossible assurances. It gave the way Jesus had, loving to death, knowing he might not be loved back.”

“Dare to try, knowing that you will make mistakes. You will fall short again and again, because there is no effort without error. In the end, you will either know the triumph of high achievement, or if you fail, you will fail while daring greatly.”

“I sometimes fancy that the completed work of the cross casts its shadow on other parts of my life too. Because Christ has finished the most crucial work on earth and in heaven, something of that completion covers all the unfinished parts of my life. What remains undone in me, through me, finds a resting place in Jesus’ finished work.”

As you pick up this novel,  you will find yourself immersed in the daily reality in which the book of Acts took place. You will experience the beauty of an ancient city your senses in an enthralling fictional voyage. I found this novel refreshing, and I think you will, too, by how the power of deep reliance on God can turn even our most deep-rooted fears into victory beyond imagination.

You can learn more about Tessa Afshar’s novels at her website, www.tessaafshar.com.

If you enjoyed this review, you might enjoy my review of her new novel, Daughter of Rome, here.

To purchase:

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Case for grace book review

Case for grace chronicles Lee’s journey of interviewing various individuals to see how grace has impacted their lives. From a homeless orphan to a murderer on death row, these heartwarming stories share a common thread. Lives transformed by the freedom that only grace can usher.

            Lee manages to paint portraits of how grace has transformed lives skillfully. Each story is so diverse, yet grace is an unapologetic celebration of divine acceptance.

God celebrates each of us through adoption as children and also celebrates our revelation of freedom in Christ.

This book is crafted with delightful candor, insight, and is brimming with redemption. It is one of my favorite books by Lee Strobel and one that I genuinely wish I had encountered during the early days of becoming a believer.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

Our understanding of Christianity cannot be better than our grasp of adoption. Of all the gifts of grace, adoption is the highest.” ― J.I. Packer, Knowing God

 All we needed when we first came to Jesus was his grace, and grace is all we need to grow in Christ. Grace liberates us. Our tendency to perform imprisons us. #caseforgrace #leestrobel. Click To Tweet

Genuine grace is the free gift of salvation, and you can’t add a price to something that is already free.

Grace is often received when we give up our efforts of trying to please God and coming to the point of revelation that nothing can add o the finished work of the cross.

Grace is born out of the fullness of His love for us and tangibly woven into our daily lives.

 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.- John 1:16

This book will awaken you to wonder of mysterious grace, leaving you in awe of the love of God.

To summarize, I love this line penned by Lee, on the relationship of grace and healing.

  Over time, I have found that nothing heals like grace. #caseforgrace #leestrobel. Click To Tweet

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Comfort in a crisis

God’s grace is the source of comfort. Comfort is a need we can all relate to, particularly at this time in the whirlwind of an unexpected global pandemic.

Comfort is a healer, and as we make our hearts intentionally receptive, comfort will release the fragrance of peace.

Once we receive comfort, we can invite others into the comforting arms of God.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we are comforted by God. – 2 Cor 1:3-5

God’s comfort is rooted in the stability of His love for each one of us.

There is no rock like our God- 1 Samuel 2:2

Comfort is the key to developing resilience in uncertain seasons. #covid19 #comfort. Click To Tweet

Comfort will also open to the door of our hearts to show compassion on others as they deal with their struggles and ways of coping.

The world may be shaking with uncertainty, but our security and strength come from courageously entrusting our futures in the hands of a loving Father.

Prayer: Lord, we thank You for the gift of comfort.  May Your comfort bring compassion and resilience to our hearts as we choose to keep our focus on You. Amen 

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I still believe review

           Like many others, I have sought the healing balm worship music brings into the valleys of my faith. 

Jeremy Camp is a much-adored Christian musician who has sung words of comfort into my life, words that still resonate with me years after I first heard them. His songs Wonderful  Maker and The Way remain personal favorites of mine, ones that bring up memories of meditating on the goodness of God.

Named after one of his famous songs, the movie I Still Believe focuses on a season of Jeremy Camp’s faith journey. The film is full of authentic faith, reflecting the moments of faithfulness Jeremy strives to hold on to as well as other times when lacking faith; he learned to lean on God for His faithfulness.

It beautifully narrates a love story between Jeremy and his first wife, Melissa, who is diagnosed early on in their relationship with a terminal illness. Despite this unexpected detour, Jeremy believes faith can sustain them transcending the borders of health and disease, from the harbor of health to the erratic waves of an unknown future. 

Not many people would dive into a valley with a fiancé facing an unpredictable future, yet Jeremy decides to heed the voice of God.

In his case, as in many biblical accounts, heeding to the voice of God ensures the will of God accomplish His purposes but does not always produce the outcome our hearts desire.

You may not have suffered the loss of a spouse like Jeremy did, but you may have wrestled with your faith in some season. Perhaps, you have experienced the death of a dream or career, or a meaningful relationship suddenly died.

We can hold on to the promises of God and choose a better way, choose to still believe.  #istillbelievemovie. Click To Tweet

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. – Philippians 1:6 New International Version (NIV)

The process of maturing in love includes handling hard emotions, unexpected losses, and wrestling with our desires.

We can choose, like Jeremy, to still believe the promises of God amidst the wrestling, amidst the dry seasons of faith, where growth seems sparse and painstakingly slow.

God allows us to experience the process of grief, although He desires that we intentionally open our hearts to receive the comfort that His grace offers. His compassion is a reminder of the gift of redemption that our stories may have hues of grief, yet it is the road to redemption that will color us back to life.

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Esther

Esther was not born into royalty, yet favor catapulted her to a place of regal influence. Thankfully, Esther had the support of Mordecai who trusted the Lord and also believed in Esther’s ability to save the Jews.

Courage set Esther uniquely apart despite her own inhibitions.

The fulfillment of a call takes preparation including silent seasons. Esther remained faithful to trust God and as a result, she saw the faithfulness of God.

Her preparation lasted for a year including the use of myrrh, which is used to heal wounds. This implies wholeness is a deep desire of the Lord for the church.

1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (NIV)

Interestingly, Vashti was banished because of disobedience. A royal decree was made to give her royal position to someone else, someone else who would steward her position better than her. She is banished and her name is not mentioned again nor does she return to the palace.

Spiritually, we are royal stewards of gifts and talents. We are also assigned callings but our calling is contingent upon our response, submission and willingness to develop into maturity so we can serve people the way our Father desires.

In the case we disobey and do not respond, the Lord will still ensure His desires will reach fruition.

Obedience takes courage and yields much fruit. The obedience of Mordecai and Esther brought a cascade of redemption.

Often, it is not about doing things perfectly but responding courageously.

When we respond courageous to God, a sacred wholehearted yes with one individual can bring much change creating a legacy of love that will impact generations to come.

So a fundamental distinction between Vashti and Esther remains their response.

And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this? -Esther 4:14

Their response to the King determined their connection with the King and ultimately, their destiny.

A sign of spiritual maturity is how we respond.  May we respond courageously like Esther to fulfill the call of God on our lives for obedience brings redemption. Click To Tweet