by Major Susie Erickson, Asst. Territorial Secretary of Women’s Ministries

It is summer and lazy hammocks are calling you to relax and lose yourself in a book. Whether you are into science fiction, history, biographies, romance or something else, there’s no better time than a hot summer day to seek refuge in the shade and let a good book transport you to a far off land and time.

The Bible is the perfect book to add to your summer reading list. Within its pages you will find history, biographies, romance, war, drama, and so much more. There is something for everyone and every interest. The most fascinating part of the Bible is every story is nonfiction at its best.

During the Summer Romance Series, we invite you to lose yourself in the pages of the Bible as we explore romance stories nestled within the pages of God’s Word. As you read keep in mind that the people and stories really happened just as written – no Hollywood special effects in these pages.

Gather that pile of books you have been waiting to read and head to your favorite spot. Climb a tree, stretch out on a porch swing, or curl up on a rainy afternoon. Enjoy the lazy days of summer with an enjoyable book, and make sure the Bible is among them.

August 21, 2019

Matthew 1:18-25

My husband and I like to hike, but we approach the trail from two different perspectives. I see the trail as a prayer labyrinth, meditatively taking each mindful step. He sees it as an obstacle course, competitively pushing harder and faster to beat our record. Somewhere in the middle of the trail our perspectives embrace, and we enrich the hiking experience for each other. He helps me build physical strength and endurance; I help him build mental clarity and purpose.

Marriage can seem like an obstacle course; and it certainly started that way for Mary and Joseph. When Mary told Joseph about her pregnancy, Joseph knew the child was not his. His respect for Mary’s character and the explanation she gave must have made it hard to think she had done anything wrong. Still, someone else was the child’s father – and it was overwhelming to accept that the “someone else” was God. At this point, God sent a messenger to Joseph to confirm Mary’s story.

Mary and Joseph had no idea what marriage, parenthood and everyday life would bring. For them, the trail had extraordinary twist and turns with breathtaking highs and heartbreaking lows. Throughout the lows and highs, the pains and pleasures, the sorrows and joys, they were obedient to God and looked to Him for strength and guidance.

Mary and Joseph show us how to trust the Lord as we walk the unpredictable path of life. If you are maneuvering a difficult part of the obstacle course called marriage, lock hands and trust the Lord to lead you through the rough places. Your hike may lead you to a cross but keep going. Just over the hill an empty tomb awaits.

July 12, 2019

What is it about reading summer romance novels that entices us? Mystery? Intrigue? A heroine? Or plain old dirty secrets? The story of Salmon and Rahab has it all.

It is no secret that Rahab was a prostitute in the city of Jericho. Our occupation can define us, and this was clearly the case with Rahab. Her job title was practically her last name, Rahab-the-Harlot.

Her house, built into the city wall, supplied both lodging and favors for travelers. It was a natural place for the Israelite spies to stay, as people would think they were Rahab’s customers.

Stories about the Israelites had been circulating for some time, but now it was clear the Israelites were about to invade. While she was fearful, Rahab turned to the Lord for her salvation. Her faith gave her courage to hide the spies.

Rahab knew her position was dangerous; she could have died if caught harboring the Israelite spies. Rahab took the risk because she sensed the Israelites relied on a God worth trusting. And God rewarded Rahab by promising safety for her and her family.

Rahab is the heroine of the story. Remembered not for her harlotry, but for her bravery. Not for loving men, but for trusting God. God works through people like Rahab, whom we are inclined to reject. God remembers her because of her faith, not her profession.

Our past does not determine our future. Rahab rose above her situation through her trust in God. While the Bible does not supply the juicy details of their romance, Salmon and Rahab are in the genealogy of Jesus. If God can turn a harlot into a holy vessel, entrusting her with the very genes that would one day produce the King of kings, surely there is hope for anyone with a past.

June 21, 2019

Throughout June groomsmen will stand at attention as the music swells and the bride begins her long walk down the aisle, arm in arm with her father. The smiling, but nervous, husband-to-be is breathless as he looks upon his bride in her wedding gown. He follows every step she takes, his eyes brimming with love. Happy tears flow as vows unite families. A wedding is a celebration of love. It is the holy mystery of two becoming one. Ordained by God, marriage illustrates God’s relationship with his people. There is no greater heartbreak than the violation of the sacred vows of marriage.

We read of such a story in the book of Hosea. God told Hosea to find a wife. God told him she would be unfaithful to him, but to marry her regardless. Although she would bear many children, other men fathered some of the children. It sounds like a modern-day episode of The Maury Show or Jerry Springer. Can you just see the title now, “Who’s Your Baby Daddy?”  In obedience to God Hosea married Gomer knowing that she will be unfaithful.

One of the great joys of reading is immersing oneself in the story line. Allowing the story to transport you to a far-off land and time.To become one of the main characters in the plot line. How difficult to image Hosea’s feelings when God told him to marry a woman who would be unfaithful. Such a thought goes against everything we believe about marriage and happily-ever-after in American culture. Did it go against Hosea’s cultural belief system too?

The book of Hosea is a love story. Real, tragic, and true. But transcending the tale of man and wife, it tells of God’s love for his people. God made a covenant with Israel and he is faithful. His love is steadfast and his commitment unbroken. But Israel, like Gomer, was adulterous and unfaithful, rejecting God’s love and turning instead to false gods. Hosea’s love for Gomer became a living prophetic example of God’s love for Israel.

We might be disgusted by Gomer’s unfaithfulness to the man who loved her so deeply. We too run after other loves and turn to false gods. We pursue dreams, goals, interest, and entertainment that do not honor God. Just as Hosea went after his unfaithful wife, so the Lord pursues us with his love.

The book of Hosea dramatically portrays God’s constant and persistent love for us. This summer place your Bible at the top of your reading list and start with the book of Hosea. Experiencethe prophet give himself willingly to God’s direction. Grieve with him over the unfaithfulness of his wife. Hear the clear warning of judgment. Reaffirm your commitment to be God’s person. Faithful in your love and true to your vows.

June 11, 2019

I envision Samson as the perfect model for a Harlequin Romance book cover. Buff beach body with long flowing hair. In my mind he is right up there with the Abercrombie & Fitch models that occasionally grace the storefronts in local shopping malls during holiday seasons.

There was more to Samson than good looks and great hair. He was born to do great works for God. His mother was unable to become pregnant when an angel of the Lord appeared to her. He told her she would give birth to a son and she must never cut his hair. The angel instructed her to not drink wine, alcoholic drinks or eat forbidden foods because God had special plans for her baby boy. Dedicated to God as a Nazirite from the moment of his birth until the day of his death, Samson was born to rescue Israel from the Philistines. To help him carry out God’s plan, he was born with enormous physical strength.

Enormous physical strength. Looks to land top modeling jobs on magazine covers. Where there is physical strength and beauty, there is a beautiful Delilah somewhere in the story.

Great strength in one area of life does not make up for great weakness in other areas. Sensuality and Delilah was Samson’s weakness. Delilah played a minor role in Samson’s life, but her effect had lasting impact. She influenced him to betray his special calling from God.

Do the people in your life help you become all God created you to be? Or, like Delilah, do they distract you from the special calling God has for you?

God turned Samsons failures and defeats into victories. His story teaches us that it is never to late to start over and fulfill your destiny.

stay tuned for the next installment!