Tag Archives: truth

Review: The Camera Never Lies, by David Rawlings

The Camera Never Lies, by David Rawlings (Thomas Nelson, 2019)

A successful marriage counselor whose own relationships are in turmoil—and who can’t write the sequel to his bestselling self-help book. His wife, trapped in a job selling questionable pharmaceuticals to help pay their hefty mortgage. Their 14-year-old daughter, withdrawing and exhibiting warning signs.

And an old camera that takes pictures of what’s unseen.

Inheriting his grandfather’s prized camera leads Daniel into experiences where truth becomes visible. He meets Simon, the unusual proprietor of the camera shop that suddenly opened near Daniel’s work. And he has to hide the photos Simon develops for him… because if anyone saw some of those images, his career—and his family—would be shattered.

The Camera Never Lies is a clean, heartwarming story with supernatural overtones, perfect for readers who love Davis Bunn’s Miramar Bay series (although without the new-romance plot thread). With its human drama and themes of trust and truth, I think it’d make an engaging movie.

Favourite lines:

…you’re thinking you had a good reason for doing what you did. At the time, you probably did, but the consequences of today don’t always respect the actions of yesterday. [hardcover pages 197-198, Simon speaking to Daniel]

Daniel held fate in his hands. It deserved to be tempted. [hardcover page 211]

This is Australian author David Rawlings’ second novel. Here’s a link to my review of his debut, The Baggage Handler. For more about the author and his work, visit davidrawlings.com.au.

[Review copy from the public library.]

The Right Kind of Open-Mindedness

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

Paul and his associates travelled from town to town, sharing the good news that Messiah had come. Invariable some people were open to their message, but others weren’t just closed to it – they were hostile.

In Berea (after being run out of Thessalonica) Paul and Silas found the right kind of open-mindedness. The people were eager to learn more about God, but they were careful to test this new teaching against the truth of Scripture. They were ready to learn, but guarding themselves against deception and false teaching.

Soon afterward, in  Athens, Paul found a different sort of open-mindedness:

(It should be explained that all the Athenians as well as the foreigners in Athens seemed to spend all their time discussing the latest ideas.)
Acts 17:21, NLT*

These people were open to ideas too, but only for discussion – not for application or for allowing what they heard to change them. It sounds like they viewed all ideas as equal, without investigating for truth.

I suspect that made it easier to get along with everyone else, and it’s what we need to do in many matters, but when it comes to what’s true or false, we need to be like the Bereans in discernment – and like Paul and Silas in teaching the truth in a way that doesn’t attack those who don’t believe it.

God our Creator, All-Wise and True, open our hearts and minds to long for a closer relationship with You, and grow us in Your truth. Protect us from ideas that would divert us from intimacy with You or lead us in wrong paths. Give us a burden to share Jesus with those around us in love and respect, and give them a desire to seek You and to know You.

May we come to the Lord with the attitude Lauren Daigle shares in this song: “Here’s My Heart Lord (Speak What is True)”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.


True or False

Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus, too, for it was because of him that many of the people had deserted them and believed in Jesus.
John 12:10-11, NLT*

You’d think raising someone from the dead would be proof enough of Jesus’ power, even for the priests and Pharisees. The common people could see it clearly enough.

It’s easy for us to say these priests were protecting their own power and didn’t want to acknowledge the truth. That they felt threatened.

That’s likely the case, but these verses make me stop and think.

How often do we deny what’s true because we’re invested in something false? (click to tweet) A belief, a perspective, a plan? Something we’d have to set aside to do life God’s way?

  • I can’t make it to church because Sunday’s my only day to sleep in, to see my friends, it’s the best time to golf…
  • Forget tithing, I can’t give anything at all, because money is tight. Hey, do you want to go out to lunch after the service?
  • It’s okay to sleep with my boyfriend/girlfriend because morals have changed.
  • I’m not bound by the Bible’s words about homosexual behaviour because Jesus would want me to be happy.
  • I don’t need to read the Bible because it’s out of date and confusing.
  • No matter what my friends say, I can trust this particular person. If I have doubts, personally, then I’m not being very loyal.
  • Maybe I shouldn’t complain, but listen to what she/he did!
  • I don’t have to report that money I earned on the side. There’s no paper trail, and the government would only waste the extra tax.
  • And the list could go on for pages…

It doesn’t have to be a big thing. God often teaches us in the small. The point is, we need to be open to see – and to follow – God’s perspective instead of our own. (click to tweet) The best place to start is with reading the Bible and taking time in prayer. Regularly and consistently.

Father God, You see the past, the present and future. You know all things, and You alone are wise. Open our eyes, hearts and wills to what You reveal, and help us to let go of our own cherished perceptions, plans and desires, and to trust You. Because we know You are good and that You love us, we know that Your way is best.

Our song this week is “Thy Word,” sung by Amy Grant.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Be Authentic and Real

Photo of Steph's hubby, Dave, one of the most courageous people she knows.

Photo of Steph’s hubby, Dave, one of the most courageous people she knows.

Be Authentic and Real, by Steph Beth Nickel

Genuine. Authentic. Real.

Do these words describe you? Do they describe me?

I admire those who are courageous enough to be real.

“I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” While people may only utter these words on TV courtroom dramas, there’s a lot to be learned from this statement.

I believe being truthful goes hand-in-hand with being authentic and real. When my three were young, I stressed the importance of telling the truth, informing them that lies were the devil’s language. I also said that deliberately leading someone to a false conclusion was the same as lying.

My Heart’s Cry

My heart’s cry is that we, as Christians, would learn to walk as we’re instructed to in Ephesians 4:11-16:

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (ESV).

As we see in this passage, “speaking the truth in love” is one of the evidences of spiritual maturity.

Asking for Help

Too often, for whatever reason, we are not open and honest with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We don’t want to burden them with our problems. We don’t want to admit we’re struggling in a certain area. We figure we should be able to work it out—just between God and us. We assume the other person doesn’t really want to know what’s on our heart and mind. We don’t want them to think less of us.

I have found if we’re open and honest, others will feel more at ease opening up to us as well. I believe this goes a long way to bringing us to the unity in the faith the Bible refers to in this and other passages.

Offering a Listening Ear

And what if we must approach someone who is in the wrong—or someone we think may be in the wrong?

Most of us want to do all we can to avoid conflict and may be tempted to put off addressing issues that really shouldn’t be ignored. It’s one thing to speak the truth in love when we’re the ones dealing with issues, but what about when it’s the other person who is struggling. Are we willing to reach out to them, come alongside them, invest the time to see things from their perspective, and then, if appropriate, help them get back on the right track?

When we pray for the wisdom God promises to give if we’ll just ask, we can be genuine, authentic, real, and truthful without unduly burdening others, breaking confidences, or gossiping.

How are you seeking to mature in Christ this day? How are you seeking to be authentic, to be real?

[Leave your thoughts below!]

Photo of Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Picture by Sarah Grace Photography)

Stephanie is a freelance writer and editor. She writes under the pen name Steph Beth Nickel. She co-authored Paralympian Deborah L. Willows’ memoir, Living Beyond My Circumstances. Among other places, it is available from Castle Quay Books and Amazon. Steph has been blogging since 2010 and is a regular guest on Kimberley Payne’s site (fitness tips) and Christian Editing Services (writing tips). She will also be writing and recording regularly for the newly-formed Hope Stream Radio. Stephanie is an active member of The Word Guild and InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship.

Steph invites you to pop by for a visit on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stephbethnickel or https://www.facebook.com/stephbnickel?ref=hl

You can also look her up on Twitter @StephBethNickel; her blog: http://stephseclecticinterests.wordpress.com; or her website (still a work in progress): http://stephbethnickel.com

What’s in the Heart

“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”
Matthew 12:34b, NKJV*

Other translations essentially say, “what’s in the heart is what comes out.” I like the imagery of abundance here, because we have good and bad and all manner of in-between things in our hearts.

As Christians, we work on guarding what comes out of our mouths. We’ve read the passages in James about controlling our tongues, and we understand the danger of harsh or inappropriate words.

Choosing our words with care isn’t about hypocrisy or pretending to be perfect. We’re saved, but we’re still being saved. Still in the process of being cleaned up. It’s a lifetime job that only God would ever dream of tackling.

If the pressure’s on, or if we’re tired or distracted, sometimes we slip. When we do, it reveals what’s inside.

  • Nothing ever goes my way.
  • Why should anything good happen, anyway?
  • I knew it was too good to be true.
  • I should have known it wouldn’t work out.

Ever said—or thought—anything like that? I have, and I’m learning that it reveals things I don’t want in my heart: doubt, lack of faith, negativity, discontent, a complaining attitude… and at the very root, a suspicion that God isn’t such a good Shepherd after all.

Nothing I’d espouse under ordinary circumstances, but when push comes to shove, the thoughts are there. Clamping my lips shut saves others from hearing it, but Jesus is right. It’s a heart matter.

We don’t have to believe the lies, the fear and the negatives. We can choose to believe God’s promises and rely on His love. But it takes work. It takes catching these unwanted thoughts and replacing them with truth. In New Testament language, it takes putting on the armour of God: especially the shield of faith, helmet of salvation, sword of the Spirit and belt of truth to hold the breastplate in place.

And it takes speaking God’s truth aloud to replace the negatives we’ve whispered so long.

God our loving Father, You see our hearts and yet You work to save us. We rely on Your promise to forgive us when we confess, and to make a way for us to escape temptation’s power. Grant us faith to truly rely on You, to fully believe Your love and Your care, to live in such a way that others will see we do indeed have a Good Shepherd.

TobyMac‘s song, “Speak Life,” calls us to use our words for good for others, but I think speaking life is also good for our own faith. Enjoy.

*New King James Version (NKJV) The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 byThomas Nelson, Inc.


Listening? Or Drifting?

So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it.
Hebrews 2:1, NLT*

The writer of Hebrews has been refuting a false teaching that has crept into the church. It sounds like some form of angel-worship, but the warning applies just as well today and to a variety of falsehoods.

We can be led astray by error, or by lies. We need careful attention to the truth to keep us anchored.

One of the best ways to stay focused on the truth is to make Bible reading and prayer a daily part of our lives. Five minutes… fifty… God is more concerned with the quality of the time than its duration. And it doesn’t need to be one lump sum, either. Some people stop regularly throughout the day to say a quick prayer or to listen to His voice.

The point is to be intentional, and sincere. We don’t want to—don’t dare—drift away from the truth.

God who reveals Himself through His word and His Spirit, so many people don’t think there’s time to spend with You each day. They don’t see the need, or the danger, but You’ve warned us. Please stir each heart that believes in You, draw each one to desire You. Don’t let us drift from the truth we’ve received.

To keep us focused, here’s Amy Grant with “Thy Word“.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Review: Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman

Seraphina, by Rachel HartmanSeraphina, by Rachel Hartman (Doubleday, 2012)

What’s a young woman to do when she needs to be anonymous but has a musical gift that won’t stay hidden? Seraphina is an outsider. She doesn’t fit in, and she can’t risk letting anyone close enough to discover her secret. But her new job is to assist the court composer, direct the orchestra in his absence, and teach harpsichord to Princess Glisselda.

The story world has a mediaeval European or British feel, with kingdoms, castles and knights. And dragons who can look like humans. The dragon/human war ended in a truce almost 40 years ago, but there’s still deep distrust between the two sides. As the anniversary celebrations approach, hostilities are increasing.

Seraphina herself is a half-dragon, and that’s the source of her (and her father’s) shame. She looks human, except for a few scaly spots that she keeps hidden. She’s a biological impossibility, and an offense against both laws and morals. But the very things she thinks disqualify her from belonging may be the gifts she brings to keep the peace.

Because she understands both perspectives, she finds herself drawn into preventing a crisis that could plunge the world back into war. This means working closer than she’d like with Princess Glisselda and the handsome Captain of the Guard, Prince Lucian Kiggs. The more Seraphina cares for them both, the harder it is to deceive them about her true nature.

Seraphina is one of those rare books that I wanted to read slowly to make the story last. The characters, setting and plot weave a rich and enjoyable tapestry. They feel real, despite being so clearly not of our world. This is a novel I will read again.

Rachel Hartman has done a beautiful job of letting the characters struggle with issues many of us know intimately: belonging and truth. There’s no sense of a forced agenda or message-driven plot. The characters, especially Seraphina and Kiggs, live their questions in front of us, and we can relate.

There’s much more to the novel than I can describe in a review. If you’re at all fond of fantasy or historical novels and you’re not threatened by a quirky fictional religion, give it a try. And prepare to lose yourself in the pages. It’s a young adult novel by nature of the characters’ ages, but it’s a satisfying read for adults as well, especially those who may struggle with belonging or who love music.

Seraphina is, unbelievably, a debut novel. I’m glad there’ll be a sequel. You can learn more about Rachel Hartman and about Seraphina on her website.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

This Weapon Changes Hearts

But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.
Romans 8:13b, NLT*

In our spiritual armour, the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God [see Ephesians 6:10-20]. The armour lets us stand our ground against attacks. The sword may even be for taking enemy territory if we’re doing battle for someone.

Today’s verse suggests we can use the sword to cut free of existing bonds or snares, not just to deflect new blows.

I’ve been wielding the sword when I use Bible verses to counter deep-set lies I’ve accepted, but somehow I hadn’t seen it in terms of battle. I just knew I had to use the light of God’s truth to burn away the deception.

God’s been nudging me lately about some attitudes that have to go—attitudes that date back to my early school years and that I thought were pretty well in hand. It turns out they’ve inserted themselves into deeper cover than I’d realized. Prayer and confession and surrender have made a start at eradicating them, but I see now that the truth of the Bible is the single-most effective tool or weapon I have.

Our God, You are holy and just, merciful and abounding in grace. You are so faithful in keeping Your promise to conform us to the image of Your Son, even when we’re slow and even when the stain runs deep. Thank You for the Holy Spirit within us and for the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Make us alert to the individual battles we face. Show us the precise verses to use in our defence. And help us stand firm in You.

Choosing a song for this one was hard! I found a good “change my attitude” song with the Newsboys’ “Breathe” and a good “don’t buy the lies” song with Jonny Diaz’ “More Beautiful You.” If you need one or both, have a listen. They speak to my heart.

But I think the heart of this message (pun intended) is “Change My Heart, Oh God.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Let God Make it Plain

Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you.
Philippians 3:15, NLT*

Perhaps only the Apostle Paul would have the confidence in the soundness of his teaching to be able to say this. Specifically, he’s been talking about counting everything else as worthless compared to gaining Christ, how he hasn’t “arrived” yet but how we all need to press on to grow closer to Jesus. [Read Philippians 3]

It’s the general application of this verse that interests me today, though. There is a spiritually mature view, and those who haven’t reached that level of growth won’t necessarily agree with it.

There are plenty of areas where there’s no “right” answer and Christians can safely hold their own opinions. Some of these areas are a bit dicey and we’re well advised to consider our words and actions so we don’t cause a more vulnerable believer to fall into sin. [Read 1 Corinthians 8:9-12]

There are doctrinal differences among the denominations that God will somehow work out in the end. And there are core truths of the faith which are non-negotiable for those who want to follow Jesus in spirit and in truth.

Paul used his position of authority to call out sin and call for church discipline. But when it came to teaching, he gave the truth and stopped at that. He prayed for believers to grow in understanding [Read Colossians 1:9-14], but he didn’t bully or badger or fret to get people’s agreement.

God has been so patient in bringing me to understand elements of His truth and to learn to live them. I’m sure it’s the same with you. And we still have much to learn—about God and about life in general.

Just as we’re on the journey, so are our brothers and sisters in Christ. So are our family and friends. Paul’s example here is freeing. We can pray, speak when appropriate, and remember that God is even more invested in revealing His truth to each heart.

God who is Truth, in whom is no shadow of lie or deceit, thank You for drawing us to know You and Your ways. Because You know each person so intimately, You know the best way and timing to make Your truth plain to us. Make us receptive so we can learn quickly, and grant us patience with one another in the process. Help us trust You to be about Your work. Nudge us when You have a word or deed for us to contribute, and nudge us even more when we’re to keep our hands and voices out of the way.

Our song this week is an older one from Carolyn Arends: I Can Hear You. Praise God that His voice does break through all the noise in our lives.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

It Takes Two

Teach me your ways, O Lord,
that I may live according to your truth!
Grant me purity of heart,
so that I may honour you.
Psalm 86:11, NLT*

These words remind me that it takes two—God and the individual—to grow a Christian. God is the teacher, and we need to apply what we learn. We can’t purify ourselves, but it’s our job to honour Him with our lives.

Living according to His truth includes believing Him, and that includes recognizing and rejecting negative thoughts. We choose to trust God because we’ve experienced His reality. He’s been teaching us, and we’ve been discovering His character.

Purity matters, too. Not so we can look perfect and show everybody else up, but so we can honour the God who rescues and restores us. We can be living examples of what He can do.

God our Creator and Sustainer, when we were separated from You, You brought us near. It’s only by Your goodness to us that we can stand in Your presence. Teach us Your ways, grant us purity of heart, and help us live according to Your truth and honour You.

Brian Doerksen’s song, “The Jesus Way,” makes a good prayer.

*New Living Translation (NLT)Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.